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Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Warning to All Drivers!

I am departing from the regular topic of my blog in order to pass on a warning on something that almost happened to me today. And I'm thanking God for my years working in Insurance Investigation for waking me up before I became a victim of fraud.

This morning en route to class, I was driving on a four-lane street, two lanes each direction. There was a maroon late model foreign car driving slowly in front of me, and in the left lane, a white sedan, also late model, but newer, hanging pretty much in the maroon car's blind spot.

We stopped at a light and I was a bit "trapped" by both vehicles that apparently wanted to stay significantly under the limit when the light turned green. It seemed that the car on the left was dropping back so I began to accelerate in order to be able to switch lanes and clear both vehicles.

However, the white car to my left kept pace with my acceleration, and so I backed did he. That's when I saw out of my peripheral vision that the man driving the car kept glancing over at me, and at the person ahead of me, and then back at me again. I immediately grew suspicious, especially considering that once again I'd crept up too close to the maroon car.

That's when the red flags triggered by the guy's inappropriate actions made me realize what MIGHT be going on; in insurance terms, it's a fraud scheme called "Swoop and Squat." It can take place with one or two other cars, and at the time I did not know if they were working together or if the guy in the white car was targeting both of us.

Basically what the criminals do is find a likely "target", maybe an unaware driver, someone alone...they don't want witnesses or passenger testimonies. They let the "target" car get into position, either by forcing it by "boxing" them in (as happened to me today), or just by taking advantage of an impatient, unaware driver. Then at the opportune moment, they hit the gas, leap ahead of the buffer car, get in front, and slam on the brakes, causing what CAN be a multiple-vehicle collision - and they're in front. They go on to get paid for the damage to their car and claim all sorts of fun soft-tissue spinal injuries and other high-dollar things that will lead to a Bodily Injury claim.  

This scenario can play out different ways...the "swoop" car can be the cause of the accident but not be directly involved, but in that case, they HAVE to be working with a partner car.

Well, once I recognized the setup this morning I backed off and refused to get close enough to either car to be taken in. At the next light, I saw that the guy kept glancing at the other driver in front of me, and eventually DID speed ahead, where, lo and behold, he almost IMMEDIATELY found another "target".

How do I know this? Because I was so intent on watching him that I completely missed my stop to get gas for my car and coffee for my class! 

I was in a great position, then,  at the next light where I witnessed Mr. White Car pull up next to the other car he'd been stalking, and there, I observed the same behavior. That car, too, had only a driver who appeared to be either elderly or at least a small-statured person, and the guy in the white car kept staring over at her, as though sizing her up. When the light turned, he kept pace, hanging slightly back, not passing, continuing to glance over as though waiting for the right moment to make some kind of a move.  

Well, I was irritated and needed to get to class, and was tired of being held up by the self-appointed criminal pace car and wanted to get away. So at the next light I made a turn, realizing as I did so that I'd FAILED to grab his license plate, and my "ditch" off to an alternate route might well give this guy the opportunity to cause the accident he was clearly looking for.

I ended up backtracking a couple blocks down, thinking that if I saw the cars pulled over, I'd stop, too (a distance away), call 911 and report the accident and the suspicious behavior to the police. My next call would be to the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau). Well I didn't see anything, so went on to class, but wondering if this guy would eventually find his victim.  

So, my dear readers, take caution out there on the road. Don't tailgate, don't get boxed in. If someone is "hovering", back off even if you're in a hurry so that you don't play into their plans and end up with higher insurance rates because of it!

Now, there is another possibility; it's possible that this guy wasn't after an insurance scheme, but rather, looking to cause an accident in order to victimize someone in another way. THAT'S why it's ALWAYS a good idea to call the police to report an accident especially if you're in a place devoid of a lot of foot traffic. If you don't want to get out of your car or have reservations if you ARE involved in an accident, call 911 and explain you're fearful of the other person and would like an officer on scene to facilitate or investigate the circumstances. It's not wrong to do this.

If you have ANY RESERVATIONS WHATSOEVER, DON'T GET OUT OF YOUR CAR! Don't give personal info, and wait for the police. Your safety, and your life is worth the wait.  


Therese said...

oh how frightening. Thanks for the heads up. I remember driving in Adelaide and two cars were driving in the two lanes at about 30k per hour. The speed limit here is about 60. They had a heap of traffic behind them and no one could get past them. About 15 minutes passed from me following them and I saw police lights flashing up ahead and they pulled the two cars over. It was such a good feeling to see these two pulled over. I have no idea how the police knew or even if these two idiots got charged.

Adoro said...

Aussie ~ Glad they got them! Here in MN, it's illegal to impede traffic, I'm guessing you have similar laws there?

The cars today were running both maybe about 10 under the limit. I think the one in front of me was just an elderly person, but in the beginning I had to wonder if he was part of the "plan".

And I'm guessing these schemes are's not like America has the corner on the market! I hope this info helps people all over the world, even though I don't know your insurance or traffic laws.

EC Gefroh said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to warn other drivers. I'm glad you are a smart driver and didn't fall for this little trap.

Adoro said...

Esther ~ I don't think I am a smart driver..I think I'm an idiot for not recognizing it before I was boxed in! (My years in insurance should have triggered me before it got to that...I think the perp was actually an idiot and that saved me).

wow. I'm not being too charitable but I don't have any respect for criminals who are out to make a living off my insurance premiums!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warning and the explanation!

Tina in Ashburn

Therese said...

I am pretty sure the laws for impeding traffic would be the same here. I remember I was pretty pregnant with our 4th child when this happened and there was a lot of traffic beeping and getting annoyed. I was really frightened we were going to be in a serious car accident.

Melody K said...

Thanks for the warning, I'll be alert. I'm fairly certain I was the victim of another type of "set-up" a few years ago. This took place in a crowded parking lot. I was in a car, parked between two large SUV's. I couldn't see beyond these vehicles, so I was inching out of my space, and hit a car which suddenly appeared in my rear view mirror. This car was so dinged up from previous accidents that I had a hard time telling where "my" dent was. He didn't want to notify the police (here you don't have to if the damage is under $1000) so we exchanged insurance info, and my company paid him $300. Looking back I should have insisted on notifying the police anyway. There's no way to prove one was set up, so now I am double, triple careful in parking lots, and try to avoid spaces where visibility is limited.

Adoro said...

Melody ~ With what you're describing, I don't think it's a setup. I DO think the other guy was a bad driver, shared in the fault for the accident and had probably had MANY like it as a result of his own heedlessness. And he probably had risk insurance, which is why he didn't want his company contacted, fearing he'd be held at fault...AGAIN. Or dropped by his company simply for being involved in another accident.

People who set you up are out for a LOT more than $300 for a ding on their car. They claim injuries, they claim bigger damages, etc.

But's good to notify police. Here they don't write reports for non-injury accidents unless there's some mitigating circumstance. And we have the same laws with regard to reporting, but that has to do with the is not require to report the accident to the STATE if the amount is under $1000. You NEVER have to call the Insurance company, but it's a good idea to do so both because you pay them to pay for your damages, or to defend you if necessary.

Melody K said...

You're probably right that a real scam artist would be going for a higher dollar amount!