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Bumper rip-off: car insurance crooks putting our lives at risk

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It’s difficult to imagine someone deliberately hurting themselves in an attempt to earn a quick buck but sadly ‘swoop & squat’ intentional car crashes are a reality on Australia’s roads. Fraudsters not only put their own lives at risk but also the lives of innocent motorists as they stage car accidents to claim on their victim’s insurance.

‘Swoop & squat’ car crashes typically involve two fraudulent cars and an innocent third-party motorist – one decoy car causes fraudsters in another car to brake suddenly, meaning the innocent driver travelling behind is unable to stop in time and inevitably crashes into the back of them. In this situation, it can be difficult for the innocent party to prove they weren’t in the wrong, or indeed even realise they’ve been caught up in a car insurance scam.

The criminals responsible for staging the car crashes are just one part of the scam. ‘Professional enablers’ such as car hire organisations, smash repair shops, and doctors produce fake paperwork, writing off repairable vehicles and exaggerating injuries. It’s through this deceitful paper trail that insurers end up paying for fraudulent claims and honest policy holders suffer through increased monthly car insurance premiums.

“It’s difficult to track and monitor car insurance crime in Australia, as there appears to be a lack of coordination between insurers. Most worrying, is that these criminals seem to pick on vulnerable road users – the elderly, young women, or people with children in the car. They’re looking for motorists who are likely to have car insurance and will be so shaken up by the accident that they’ll easily believe they’re to blame,” said comparethemarket.com.au spokesperson Abigail Koch.

Comparethemarket.com.au reveals 5 giveaways that may indicate car insurance fraud:  

  1. The car in front slammed on their brakes for no reason. “The ‘swoop & squat’ technique tends to be used on roundabouts and off-ramps, when a third party ‘decoy’ car cuts the fraudster off, causing them to stop suddenly. Sometimes though, these criminals will simply use a tailgating opportunity to cause you to rear-end them. If you’re driving too close behind them, a quick tap on their brakes may be all they need to cause you to crash into the back of them,” said Abigail.
  1. A pre-written ‘insurance details’ note: “Typically when you’ve had a prang, you pull over on the side of the road and scrawl your insurance and contact details on whatever paper you can find in your car,” added Abigail. “None of us leave the house thinking we’re going to be involved in a car accident, so alarm bells should ring if you have a collision and the other party already has a pre-written note with their contact details on it.”
  1. The person you crashed into doesn’t want the police notified or insists they make the call: Be mindful that a fraudster doesn’t want the police anywhere near the scene of a staged accident. If you have a collision and the other person says there’s no point calling the police or forcefully insists on calling themselves, just listen to the call. Does it sound real? If it sounds suspicious, then there’s no harm in calling the police yourself afterwards to double check the call was actually made.
  1. The driver of the other car is calm and friendly but insistent that the collision is your fault: Fraudsters want to keep you onside. The last thing they want to do is to create a scene or cause an argument that could lead to the police being called. Typically, they’ll be very friendly and obliging, but at the same time make it clear that the accident was entirely your fault.
  1. It was just a fender-bender but their claim is hugely exaggerated: It was a minor collision but a few weeks later, you receive a letter from your insurer saying they’ve received a claim for a recovery vehicle, car hire, and injuries to all passengers. As far as you’re concerned, they’d driven away from the accident themselves so there was no need for a tow truck, and there’d been no-one else in the car at the time.

“None of these ‘giveaways’ automatically point to car insurance fraud, but if you are involved in an accident and think you might have been part of a scam, then it’s important you talk to your insurer. They’ll be keen to listen as they want to detect fraudsters to ensure honest policy holders are protected,” said Abigail.

“The best thing motorists can do to protect themselves is to remember not to tailgate – don’t give criminals the opportunity to involve you in a crash. If you think someone is driving erratically then give them as wide a berth as possible.

“If you are involved in an accident and are suspicious of the circumstances then remember that your safety is paramount and you must not play vigilante. Just try to record as much information as possible. Remain calm, take photos of both cars, and obtain contact details from all people involved, including passengers and witnesses. This information will be invaluable when it comes to investigate the claim and could save your no claims discount,” said Abigail.

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