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Avoiding accident scams during summer vacation

Summer is vacation time -- but if you're heading out of town this year, or if your hometown happens to be a vacation hot spot, take care that you don't end up in the middle of a scam. You could become the unwitting accomplice of "car accident artists" who try to grab quick paydays from drivers and their insurance companies.

Staged auto accidents are a real problem. They often spike in the summer months when there are plenty of people on vacation -- which makes them easier targets since they're unfamiliar with the roads and often eager to avoid the complications of a car accident while they're on a trip somewhere. These scammers sometimes target innocent drivers and sometimes their insurance companies -- but they make it much harder for real victims to assert a claim for damages. Insurance companies and jurors alike start viewing everyone with a suspicious, jaded eye.

Telling an accident scam apart from a real car accident can be tough. Some of the most common tactics scam artists use include:

  • Cutting you off and braking suddenly to force a rear-end collision
  • Using several cars and fake witnesses to force a t-bone accident in an intersection, then claim you ran a red light

There are many variations on these themes, which often require several scam artists to work together. Sometimes they want to try to get a quick payday from the driver they've targeted. They'll ask for cash and offer to keep the accident off your insurance record. Others are hoping for a "nuisance settlement" from your insurer to make the claim goes away.

Who gets targeted the most by these scammers? Anybody they think they can either scare or coax into paying them including:

  • People from out of state, likely on vacation
  • Drivers of luxury vehicles
  • Elderly drivers
  • Company cars
  • Young drivers who seem inexperienced

If something seems wrong and the other driver acts suspiciously, don't ignore your instincts. Be particularly concerned if there seems to be a carload or two of handy "witnesses" all swearing that you were at fault for the accident.

Never settle on the spot. Call the police and go through the proper procedures -- and tell the responding officer of your suspicions. Also, make certain that you seek medical care promptly if you are injured -- you may have to file an injury claim of your own.

Source: autoprocollisionaz.com, "Protect Yourself! How To Avoid Staged Auto Accident Scams," Mike Wasdin, accessed June 07, 2018

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