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 off...so 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!
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.