Gianetta Palmer is a writer, copywriter, and essayist. Her work has appeared in EverydayHealth.com, Healthline, and The Dyrt Magazine. She is the author of Scrunchie-Fried and writes a lot about car insurance in her spare time.

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florid...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Nov 15, 2020

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A staged car crash occurs when one driver maneuvers the situation so that an accident happens and an innocent driver gets to be blamed for the incident. Although the damage may be slight, the “victim” will declare more expensive and serious damage or injuries, and the main reason for this is so that they can cash in on the other person’s auto insurance. Staged car crashes are easy for experts to perceive, but crooks are becoming more and more creative in their ways. Drivers should also be aware of this form of modus operandi so that they will not become victims.

Scam Methods

Scammers are quite imaginative in devising ways to cause road accidents where they will look like the victims. Some of the techniques that they use are swoop and squat, drive down, panic stop, and sideswipe, among a few.

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1. Swoop and Squat

Here’s a scenario of a swoop and squat incident. Let’s say that you’re driving along a long highway and you notice that the car in front of you is driving quite slowly; and so, you’re forced to do the same. This is probably the “squat” driver. The “swoop” driver is likely behind you, and you’ll notice that he’ll speed up and pass you, and then cut off the “squat” driver. When the “squat” driver suddenly slams on the brakes, you’ll probably rear-end him, and this is when all your car troubles begin. Even though the accident only resulted in minor damage or injuries, the con-man/driver will make outrageous claims so that he’ll get more insurance money.

This image shows examples of a swoop and squat, sidewipe, wave, and T-bone stage car accidents.
Image credit to Smart Motorist

Types of Drivers Scammers “Key-in” on to Victimize

Luxury vehicles and new cars
Work vehicles
Women and older adults
Tractor-trailer Trucks
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2. Drive Down

The drive down is another common tactic that lawbreakers use. The target could be anyone who is trying to merge into traffic, and he could come from either the road on the left or right side. The crook, on the other hand, is the driver who will wave the victim to go forward. But then, he continues forward as soon as the innocent driver moves his vehicle along too. The dishonest driver crashes into the other vehicle and he’ll claim that he never waved or gave signals in order for the unknowing driver to be able to move forward.

This graph illustrates how much consumers will by year by year from insurance fraud and stage car accidents.

Note: The cost of insurance fraud is passed on to the consumer by higher premiums. From 2012 to 2020 the amount speculated to increase is over 50 percent.

3. Panic Stop

The panic stop technique includes a few deceitful players – the driver and a number of passengers. Their car cruises along and the driver of the vehicle behind them is not even aware that he has become a target. The crooks keep watch of the driver and when he is most distracted, such as when he answers his phone or when he looks away from the road, the other driver suddenly slams on the brakes and the innocent one rear-ends the automobile. The supposed “victims” will all complain of whiplash and other injuries so that they can cash in on the other person’s insurance.

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4. Sideswipe

The sideswipe usually occurs in busy streets where there are dual left- or right-turn lanes. The person driving in the inner lane is the one at risk. If he accidentally drifts into the outer lane while he is turning, the dishonest driver will crash into him or sideswipe him.

Consequences of Staged Car Accidents by Scammers

Consequence of ScamPossible Causes to the Victim
Injury and DeathScammers don't usually want injury of death to happen, but it can.
Higher Auto Insurance CostsTo offset fraud insurance firms pass it to the consumer via higher premiums.
ExpenseYou could be stuck with the cost of repairs.
InconvenienceTime, possibly money, by you or the insurance company.
TraumaA victim of a stage accident can be traumatized by trying to drive more careful.
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Conclusion

Crooks come up with a number of clever ways to instigate car crashes where they look like the victims. You really have to be watchful when driving so that you can avoid becoming a victim. Also, in case you do suspect that something fishy is going on, get help from your insurance company and the authorities. More importantly, you need to be aware of the first steps that you need to take after a car accident.