Car accidents are bad enough, but an auto insurance scam can make an already awful day become an absolute disaster. According to Edmunds, more than 20 percent of bodily injury claims and 10 percent of auto damage claims as the result of car accidents are fake. Here are some of the most common auto insurance scams so you can keep yourself (and your vehicle) safe.
Scammy repair shops will replace deployed airbags with cheap knockoffs. In worst case scenarios, they may even fill the area with garbage. Not only is this a scam, but it's life-threatening.
If you're getting your car fixed after the air bags deployed, always go to an auto shop that has been approved by your insurance company. If you're buying a used car, check the air bag light; if the light never appears, flashes at a steady pace, or stays on, then walk away or get the car checked immediately.
One of the most common scams is a staged accident or collision. Scammers will typically stage an accident so that their vehicle so that you will appear to be at fault. According to Esurance, here are some things to look out for that should tip you off:
- A stranger at the scene refers you to a doctor, lawyer, or repair shop
- A physician (either one you were referred to or the other party’s) pressures you to file a personal injury claim, even though you aren’t hurt
- A tow truck appears without being called
The scammer may force the car behind them to hit them by slowing down or stopping abruptly. They may also pull in front of another car and brake suddenly.
The Fake Injury Claim
If you get in a minor accident with another driver and they immediately claim they have pain and want to be taken to the hospital, they can file an insurance claim against your provider to cover the medical bills for the fake injury.
How to avoid this type of scam? Pay attention to how the other driver acts before the police arrive. If they seem fine, but immediately change their behavior once the authorities arrive, they're likely scamming you. Make sure you always file a police report for your insurance company's sake, and try to record video if you believe the other party is acting funny.
The "Phantom Victim"
After a collision, scammers will file claims with the other party’s insurance for people who weren’t in the crash, or weren’t on the scene at all. This scam commonly occurs with the "staged accident." To avoid being a victim of this type of scam, document as much as you can after a car crash. Note who was present and take photos.
If you didn't call for a tow truck, but one magically appears, it's likely a scam. You'll get a tow all right, but you will also end up with a gargantuan bill. Instead, stick to your own resources; use your roadside assistance program (if you have one), check to see if your auto insurance policy offers assistance, or call your own tow truck. Make sure you get a printed out copy of the invoice, with everything itemized.
The Bad Samaritan
After an accident, a "good samaritan" might approach you and pose as a third-party insurance official or consultant. This is to scam you into using fraudulent health, auto, or law services. To avoid this, only do business with your and the other driver's insurance companies, and don't give strangers your information.
False Right of Way
Some drivers who have the right of way will wave you on as a polite gesture before they crash into you. Watch out for this type of scam in the parking lot as well; the other driver may let you have the space, but then swerve into you as you pull in. This can also happen when you're switching lanes; scam artists may speed up as you're changing, then claim that you didn't check your blind spot.
Unfortunately, this is a really difficult scam to predict. The most you can do is to stay in your lane and abide by right of way rules.
If you buy your auto insurance coverage through a shady agent, he or she might just steal your premium. Here's what happens: the agent takes your money, but doesn't actually set up coverage. When an accident occurs, you won't have any insurance to pay your claim. Another scam is for the agent to slip extra coverage into your coverage. This is known as "sliding," and can add hundreds of dollars to your premiums.
Windshield Replacement Ripoffs
Free windshield replacements are a scam, and a safety hazard. Once the scammer has your insurance information, they can submit false claims under your policy, thereby raising your premium. Always call your insurance company to see what windshield replacements are and aren't covered.