Paper accidents are harmless enough. No cars collide. No one gets hurt. Why? Because the accident NEVER happened. It was created on "paper." Fraudsters fill their cars with injured people who have been given roles and scripts to play. The cars are previously totaled vehicles purchased from salvage yards, or just an old car used for this purpose. The "passengers" are carted off to "treat" with knowing or unknowing health care providers who legitimize their injuries by recording their subjective findings (which means he/she told me what was wrong and I wrote it down, even though I can't find anything wrong with them). Each person involved (other than the "at fault" driver is entitled to collect for their injury claim. Put 10 people in two cars, subtract the "at fault" driver and you have 9 claims with a payout for each one that could be upwards of $15K and you can watch $135K walk out the door.

But someone does get hurt - YOU do! Every premium payment you make to your insurance company has a portion siphoned off to pay for these fake claims.

Staged accidents are a lot more risky. Innocent people can and do get hurt or killed. Here are some of the scenarios. (Don't forget, as soon as the industry figures them out, a newer and better version is devised.)

Swoop & Squat - This one involves three cars; two to perform the swoop & squat and YOU, the victim. Here's how it works: Car one pulls in front of you, then car two pulls in front of car one. Car two suddenly brakes, causing car one to brake and causing YOU to hit car one. Car two leaves the scene.

Sudden or Panic Stop - This one speaks for itself. The driver stops suddenly for no apparent reason and YOU rear end him/her. These are usually done at low speeds, quite often after a stop light or stop sign, before you have a chance to fully accelerate. Excuses for stopping range from an oil can on the road to a low flying bird. Frequently, the brake lights on these vehicles are made not to function, so the following driver has no warning of the impending stop.

Drive Down - Ever have a driver motion you to enter the street from a driveway or to cross the intersection? You might want to think twice before accepting his/her generous offer. The fraudsters will lead you right into an accident when they speed up after motioning you forward. Then they deny their actions and you're stuck with a damaged car, a deductible to pay (if you have collision coverage) and a higher insurance premium.

Side Swipe - You find yourself at a busy intersection with two left turn lanes. You're in the inner turn lane and the fraudsters is in the outer lane. You drift into the outer lane as you're making your turn and crunch, car two sideswipes you. You're at fault right? You can bet you will probably be determined to be the "at fault" party, but you've just been set up. The intersection has been scoped out by the fraudster looking for just an area where cars frequently drift across the dividing line. Then they look for newer or expensive cars and position themselves to do the deed.

Ways to protect yourself:

  1. NEVER, EVER tailgate.
  2. Keep a camera in your car (throw away). Take pictures of the damage to the other car, the people involved and the accident scene, if possible, take pictures of them leaning over or squatting to look at the damage.
  3. Get the names of EVERYONE involved, including addresses, phones and license plates. Get a head count.
  4. Call the police.
  5. Watch people in the other car. Are they laughing and joking. Do they appear to be hurt? When the authorities arrive, does their behavior change to reflect they have an injury?
    Look for witnesses and/or write down the plate numbers of passing cars where the drivers may have seen the accident. Their plates can be run to identify the owners and they may be able to verify your version of the accident.