Warning…this article just might infuriate you. It’s bad enough that we have so much to worry about right now, but here’s another issue to add to the pile: staged auto accident fraud. Whether it’s an individual mired in a financial crisis looking for quick cash, or an organized crime ring complete with auto body shops and other “actors” in cahoots, staged accident fraud is a real thing in British Columbia. The perpetrators even drag unsuspecting motorists into their fraud schemes, creating an awful and dangerous experience for innocent parties. Staged accident fraud creates higher insurance costs for everyone. Let alone these can cause injuries that will affect the victim for years to come.
Staged auto accident fraud, also known as staged collisions, occurs when a criminal targets another driver on the road and uses manipulative methods to get them to crash their vehicle into the criminal’s vehicle. From there, the criminal uses the crash incident as a way to file false insurance claims.
ICBC combating staged auto accident fraud
The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) has been increasing its fraud detection efforts to catch criminals engaging in claim frauds. During the fiscal year of 2018/19, ICBC’s Special Investigations Unit opened over 19,500 claims or driver’s license investigations. Using the latest in technology, their cyber unit tracks available information online from social media and uses a fraud analytics tool that helps detect patterns and predictors from the moment a claim is started.
Even though the Special Investigation Unit has amassed about 600 convictions between 2010 and 2018, there is still more work to be done to decrease fraudulent claims. With awareness, along with practicing good defensive driving skills, motorists in BC can also help decrease fraudulent claims, because every time these criminals are successful, it costs us all money.
How criminals stage auto accidents
A little education can help drivers spot a potential staged accident fraud unfold. This form of fraud can appear in a variety of sophisticated schemes. Here are some common methods of staged auto accident fraud:
The Drive Down: After being motioned by the criminal, the victim merges into traffic. As they merge, the criminal speeds up to cause a collision, later denying any motion to merge.
The Panic Stop: The criminal pulls in front of the victim, and a passenger watches for the victim to become distracted. Once distracted the criminal slams on the brakes, causing the victim to rear-end the criminal.
The Sideswipe: The criminal positions their vehicle in the outer turn lane and sideswipes the victim in the inner turn lane.
What you can do to avoid staged accident fraud
One step any driver can take right now to help foil this type of crime (and generally make our roads safer places to be) is to resist the urge to be distracted while driving. Based on the types of maneuvers listed above, there’s nothing these criminals love more than a distracted driver, because we live in a world where 35 percent of drivers admit to changing clothes while driving! According to Tests.ca, provider of “the ultimate list of driving statistics in Canada,” a survey of drivers in six countries came clean about changing their clothing while driving. Also from Tests.ca, a Canadian Auto Association poll discovered 78 percent of drivers frequently change the radio station while driving. Do we need to even mention our cell phones at this point? Drivers need to be focused solely on driving at all times to protect themselves from staged auto accident fraud.
Tailgating and distracted driving
Another ounce of prevention; always avoid tailgating other vehicles, as tailgating makes it easier for criminals to target you on the road. Don’t forget, these criminals are always on the lookout for potential innocent victims to unknowingly assist them in their fraud claims, and they’ll definitely be attracted to any driver displaying above-average tailgating skills. If you or a driver you know has a penchant for tailgating, the two-second rule should become your new mantra.
Bonus Tip: Take a off-road defensive driving course. Check out our Defensive Driving Day.
If you do get in an accident, call the police immediately, and document the damages by taking pictures and videos on your phone. Take photos of the street, the buildings and any people (could be tracked down for witness statements). Be sure to get the names and contact information of everyone involved—even vehicle passengers. If your car doesn’t have a dashboard camera, you might consider installing one for added protection.
The BC Supreme Court recently wrapped up a case of staged accident fraud that dated back to 2013, involving two men: one in financial ruin after a parent’s death and the other providing the accident scheme to help his friend out. They were found liable and have to pay $40,000.
A staged collision ring’s fraudulent claims in Ontario cost the public upwards of $4 million until it was busted. This type of criminal activity is far-reaching with financial costs affecting the healthcare system, insurance rates, emergency services, criminal courts, and above all, putting the lives of others at risk.
ICBC has a fraud tip phone line and wants to know…
Do you have information on a potential fraud? Let us know. Contact us anytime on our tips line or use our online form to report a fraud tip. All tip information provided to ICBC is confidential and anonymous.
B.C., Canada, and the U.S.
And remember, the next time a song you can’t stand plays on your car stereo, don’t touch that dial. Just let it play; you just might avoid a staged accident fraud.
ICBC: Fighting fraud
Tests.ca: Driving statistics
Drive Smart BC: The two-second rule
CBC.ca: ICBC Caught the
Guilty as charged: Toronto-based staged collision ring
Insurance Bureau of Canada: Video examples staged accident fraud maneuvers
Reliance Insurance: Auto Insurance Products