‘Crash for Cash’ scams invade even small towns

First recognized in Southern California in the mid 1980’s, automobile Crash For Cash scams have spread to every state in the U.S. If you think that you are immune because you live in a nice, quiet, little town, guess what? You’re not. Crooks love pulling this one in nice, quiet, little towns because nobody is expecting it.

The most common accidents are dubbed “Swoop and Squats.” Bad Guy(s) Number One (BG#1) sees you driving in a clean late model car that’s probably well insured, and positions his car in front of yours. BG#2, suddenly passes both of you, swoops in front of BG#1 and slams on the brakes. BG#1 brakes hard (he’s a professional at staging this type of accident) and manages to just miss BG#2. You slam on your brakes, too, but rear-end BG#1. BG#2 speeds off.

The car you hit in this staged accident is usually older and will carry 2-6 occupants. Even if they say “yes, we’re fine,” understand that they WILL sign with an attorney and begin treatment for “injuries” within 48 hours. Eventually you get sued.

So, why did they want to get rear-ended? Liability, that’s why. If you hit another car in the rear, no matter the circumstances, it’s your fault. Plain and simple.

There are three magic words to protect yourself. Document, document, document. Take pictures of everything that moves. Use your cell phone camera or carry a small digiital camera in your glove box. Both cars, the scene, the participants, close, far, everything! And by the way, it is just as important to visually document a small (even no damage) accident as it is to visually document a more significant impact. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

Finally, if you have even the smallest suspicion that you may have been set up as a “Liability Bank,” make sure that you clearly communicate those concerns to your insurance company when you report the loss. Most insurers have Special Investigation Units (SIU’s) and the quicker they know, the more effective they can be in heading off a fraudulent claim.

Why is this all so important? Because it is YOU who ultimately bears the cost of insurance fraud. Claims costs, all claims costs, are passed on to the consumer. And this particular crime is (1) big business — the “average” Swoop &Squat results in a $20,000 settlement, and (2) dangerous and must be stopped. Victims and participants have lost their lives due to unintended injuries in staged accidents gone bad.

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.