How to Avoid Common Car Insurance Fraud and Scams

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How to Avoid Common Car Insurance Fraud and Scams (Photo: @achirathep via Twenty20)
For those who have been lucky enough to have stayed clear of insurance scammers, it can seem downright bizarre that there are people on the road who actually want to get into an accident. Insurance fraud is a major problem, and while the main targets are usually the insurance companies themselves, there are some people who will try to drain you of your hard-earned money if given the chance. Fortunately, keeping a good cynical head about you can be enough to avert most of their cons.

Drive safely and avoid a scam crash

It’s not unheard of that a driver (most often a group of people) will plan a crash, meticulously orchestrating it so that the blame is offset onto the victim. This plan may sometimes involve multiple drivers, who will work together to force you into an accident. Although it’s thankfully rare enough that you need not worry about it on a daily basis, it’s still a reason to exercise some good safety sense on the road.
Keep a healthy distance behind cars; tailgating a car will make it easy for a would-be scammer to rail you into a collision. In addition, following standard protocol and right-of-way procedures will ensure that you’re never in the blame, should push come to shove.

Follow the direct advice of your insurance provider

Many scams can be averted by getting your advice and directions from your insurance company. This includes everything from which body shop to choose to the actions you should take at the crash scene itself.
Don’t take up the first random towing truck that comes along unless it’s first been verified by your insurance company. Certain “rogue” towers find accidents via a police scanner, and could plan on taking you to a less-than-optimal body shop with their own kickbacks reward in mind.

Count the passengers in the other car to avoid “phantom victim” syndrome

Make a point of counting how many people are in the other car when you have an accident. One of the more common scams is the case of “phantom victims,” referring to people who weren’t actually in the car, but will claim that they were in order to get more money out of the insurance settlement.
Taking a snapshot with your phone or camera is especially helpful if there’s any doubt, because it can be used as evidence if they try to put their word up against yours.

Remain vigilant regarding any paperwork

If you follow the instruction of your insurer directly, you shouldn’t be led into any scamming issues. However, in the chances that you have taken up a recommendation from another driver or tower, you’ll want to take extra care to keep track of the paperwork.
Whether it’s the body shop you take your car to or even the physician’s clinic (yes, they can be involved in scamming too) make sure you keep a close tab on the official paperwork. Compare and contrast any bill with your personal record, and see if you can spot any mistaken costs or fees.

Don’t take anyone you don’t know on their word

In the event of an insurance scam, anyone - and that means anyone - could be involved in the scheme. It is not unheard of that apparent bystanders and even dubious insurance companies could be in on something. Staged bystanders have been known to use their supposedly “impartial” presence to push the claim in their chosen side’s favor.
As a result, don’t take anyone for their word or take a recommendation. The only people you word you should go by is a trusted representative from your insurance company.
People in the other car may exaggerate the need for medical attention. If anything tips you off to the possibility they’re playing it up, you should let your insurer know this well in advance. Filing a police report in the case of possible suspicions is a good way to cover your rear. For what it’s worth, insurance companies are aware of scams of this nature, and have contingencies prepared in the event that fraud appears likely.