At the scene of a car accident, it’s hard to think clearly. Your adrenaline is rushing; you’re nervous, and you’re concerned about what happens next. It may never cross your mind that the other driver is pulling a con job on you.
Even in the clarity of the next day, the situation may seem completely innocent. A con artist is counting on this, which is what makes their methods so sneaky. Take a second to consider the details of your accident. Upon closer examination, you may find you were the victim of a staged car accident. Here are six indications that your accident was a scam.
A Sudden Slamming of the Brakes
A common car accident scam is called the “swoop and squat.” This con involves more than one vehicle. One “swoops” in, and the other “squats.” Here’s how it works. The “squat” car gets in front of you. Suddenly, another car “swoops” in front of them, slamming their brakes.
The “squat” car then slams its brakes, giving you no time to react. After you hit the squat, the swoop car drives off. The con can also involve several cars. For instance, a third can pull up next to you, boxing you in and giving you no chance to avoid a collision.
The swoop’s purpose is to make the accident seem legitimate. If a car suddenly stops in front of you for no reason, the deceit may be too obvious. By involving another vehicle, the occupant of the squat car claims they had no choice but to stop, blaming you for hitting them.
Waving You Through a Left Turn
This con is called the “left turn drive down.” Here’s the scenario. You are waiting to make a left turn. You’re facing another driver stopped on the opposite side, who waves you through. You take this generous offer and start making your turn. Suddenly, this person pulls out in front of you, blocking your path.
Before you have time to think, a new car appears, slamming into your right side. The other car, the one containing the person who waved you through, drives off. Now it’s just you and the car who hit you, alone with no other witnesses. Although you were hit, the other driver claims you didn’t give them the right of way, blaming you for the accident.
Another Car Suddenly Appears
Often happening in a residential area, this con is often called the “curb drive down.” Imagine you are parked by the curb, and the road is completely clear. You start your car and cautiously pull into the street. Without warning, another car appears in your lane, slamming into your side.
This situation may seem cut-and-dry. The road was clear, and they hit you. When it is a staged accident, however, it quickly devolves into your word against theirs. They claim that you pulled out in front of them, and you claim that the road was clear.
False Witnesses Suddenly Appear
Sometimes a staged crash completely ignores the details of the event. A common con involves a full, T-bone collision. You are driving through a green light, completely following the rules. Suddenly, another car runs a red light, slamming into your side. It’s obvious that they were at fault until witnesses appear.
They all tell the same story, that it was you who ran the red light. They claim the other driver had no chance to avoid you. Now it’s your word against many, and all these people are in on the scam.
The Car Is Full of Passengers
Car crash scams typically involve several people, many of whom are inside the vehicle. Certainly, people pile into cars and go on road trips with no ill intent. However, if the crash itself was suspect, a full car may be an indication of a con.
For example, say the wreck wasn’t that bad, and there’s no reason to believe anyone was hurt. However, as soon as police arrive, each passenger begins complaining about pain or injury. Another possibility, like with false witnesses, is every passenger tells an identical, false version of the event.
The Other Driver Wants to Avoid Police Intervention
There could be several reasons why someone wants to avoid the authorities in a wreck. Sometimes, they simply are afraid of their insurance rates going up, and they want to settle privately. Every now and then, however, it’s part of their scam.
Staged car wrecks are highly dependent on the con artist’s story. Even when they are clearly at fault, they can spin a narrative that makes them the victim. A skilled police officer may be able to see through their story, and the scammer wants to avoid that at all costs.
If the other driver wants to avoid police, they’re doing so out of self-interest. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scam or not. Do your best to keep them there until the police arrive. Keep your hands to yourself, and keep your voice at a reasonable level. You can’t stop them if they choose to drive away, so record as much information as you can. When the police arrive, turn over any information you have, and let them handle it from there.
What to Do if You Believe You’re Being Scammed
- Keep cool.
Everything comes down to your word against theirs. If you allow your temper to flare, it could be used against you. Keep your tone and your words reasonable, and don’t fly into a profanity-laced tirade. Don’t ball your fists, and don’t get in anyone’s face.
- Record everything.
After any car wreck, you should start recording the scene. Take pictures of license plates, property damage, tire marks, and anything else that’s relevant. If the other driver is cooperative, get their name and insurance information. In a car wreck, information is power.
- Go for treatment and repairs ASAP.
If you’re being scammed, the other person is looking for a payout. The quicker you have your body and car diagnosed, the quicker you know how much treatment and repairs will cost. By taking these steps early, you could be the one receiving money, not the con artist.
How to Protect Yourself from a Staged Car Accident
In some of the scenarios above, there isn’t much you can do to keep them from happening. Others, however, rely on your mistakes. As you drive each day, practice the following to keep yourself from getting conned.
Keep Your Distance
The “swoop and squat” relies on your being too close to the car ahead of you. When that “squat” car stops, you will have no choice but to hit them. It’s easy to get into a rush and try pushing the car ahead of you. Many drivers do this regularly. However, by keeping at least a car length between you and another driver, you have more time to react in an emergency. This practice can keep you from getting conned, and it’s just good safe driving.
Follow the Rules
Sometimes, con artists rely on your faith in the goodness of people, as we see in a “left turn drive down.” Your best bet is to always obey traffic laws. If someone waves you through when they have the right of way, don’t take the offer. Acknowledge their generosity, and wait for them to go. You can’t be scammed if the con artist can’t place you into position.
Stay Aware of Other Cars
Car wreck con artists often use older cars. The scammer doesn’t want to lose money, so they’re not going to invest in a new BMW for their con. Scammers also tend to involve other people who can corroborate their stories.
To be clear, we aren’t encouraging you to be suspicious or paranoid of other drivers. There will always be old cars full of good people with no criminal intent. We are simply suggesting that you stay aware, keeping track of who is on the road around you.
Invest in a Dashcam
These days, digital recording devices are plentiful and affordable. One of the best ways to avoid a “he said/she said” fight is having a record of the event. Dashcams can keep a constant record of your driving, which will be helpful in any accident, especially those involving a scam.
I Think I Was Scammed. Now What?
If you believe you were the victim of a staged wreck, talk to an attorney. Using investigative techniques, they may be able to uncover details of the wreck, proving the fault of the con artist. If you believe you were conned in a car accident, call us for a free consultation.
We may be able to help prove that you were not responsible for the event. Our number is (817) 591-4222. You can also contact us online.