"Forewarned is Forearmed"
We discussed insurance scams in our previous article about the reasons why car owners avoid getting auto insurance.
Without further ado, here are the five common car insurance scams used to prey on unsuspecting drivers (and to an extent, insurance providers).
The Tailgate Bump
The Tailgate Bump happens when the scammer driving in front of you makes a brake-check and comes to a sudden stop so that you unavoidably rear-end his or her car. In most rear-end collisions, the driver at fault is the one who rear-ends the car in front. If executed well, this can be an open-and-shut case, and you and your insurance provider would have no choice but to pay out. Worse, the scammer may claim for medical expenses and even hospitalization.
The Right of Way Smash
Oh, this one… this one is just nasty. What happens is, your exit is coming up or you’ve gotten into the wrong lane and need to change lanes immediately. You see this guy on the lane you want to change into, and signals you to go ahead and make the change. He even slows down a bit to give you space.
Taking the opportunity, you quickly take the opening, only to hear a crunch on the side. You press the brakes, look around and you’ve just crashed into the guy. The guy deliberately hits the side of your car. Who’s at fault? He signaled you to drive into his lane ahead of him, right? Right? When the traffic police arrives, expect him to deny that he gave you permission and that you swerved into him as he was dutifully driving in his lane, keeping a safe distance to the vehicle in front of him. Surprise---the collision was entirely your fault.
The Car Hood Jumper
We’ve seen the dashboard camera videos on YouTube. Most are laughable attempts but there are a few that would make you jump up and shout, “Idiot!” But without those videos to document the scam, it seems unbelievable to expect someone to risk their bodies for money---seriously. Because this is a truly deadly scam that, if it is successfully executed, can be very, very lucrative for the scammers. The question that’s posed to drivers now is, “which is more expensive, a reliable high-quality dashcam or the potential of paying out immense financial compensation?
The Helpful Bystanders (and Their Friendly Neighborhood Repair Shops)
Also known as the Bad Samaritan Scam, this one’s insidious because when you’re involved in a car accident there’s always that hope that the strangers and bystanders crowding there would be helpful rather than predatory.
While waiting for traffic police or the medical emergency services to arrive, the Bad Samaritan will come in and engage you in conversation. She or he would ask you about the circumstances of the accident, how you are feeling, and comment on the severity of the damages to your motor vehicle and to the other car.
Then, she or he will proceed to suggest a car service repair shop that can help with this kind of damage. She or he will leave you a name and number to contact and to tell them that she/he referred you. They may also ask for your information and details about the accident on the premise of calling ahead.
Beware: this is a kind of social engineering, or phishing, to get you to share your info. Avoid doing so and only deal with the authorities and pertinent personnel who will conduct the investigation. Also, make a note to report your interaction with the authorities.
Selling the Drama
This scam is the worst as it often turns you into an unknowing scapegoat by helping the scammers get thousands of pesos in claims from your insurance provider (and if the coverage is not enough, from you too!).
Also known as the Staged Road Accident, the Selling the Drama Scam can be treated more as a con than a scam, really, as it is a little more elaborate than most scams. It involves using many set plays like Tailgate Bump combined with the Car Hood Jumper---or all four of the previous car insurance scams. Scammers employing the Selling the Drama Scam often work in groups of four to six individuals, at least two vehicles, and may even have a place along a main or side road set up ahead of time.
The scam starts by entrapping you into committing one of two mistakes, depending on your position in relation to the first group of scammers. First, they may attempt a Tailgate Bump (easiest to pull off). If you don’t fall for that, they may either pick another victim or maneuver around your car to agitate you into making a wrong move.
When you hastily change lanes, they may set you up with the Right of Way Smash, or a Car Hood Jumper using a motorcycle or a bicycle. If that doesn’t work, they will drop away or set you up for a collision with another of their partner-scammers down the road. Some may even use a car with existing problems and claim them as additional damages resulting from the crash.
If the staged accident is successful, the “victims” will claim hospitalization and medical expenses to be shouldered by your auto insurance coverage. Then, one or two of their group will mingle with the crowd converging on the “accident” and pretend to be helpful (like in the False Samaritan scam) with advice on where to get your car repaired for a lesser cost. Hence, Selling the Drama (that it's the title of a really great song isn't a coincidence, either).
What To Do To Avoid Being Scammed
As if managing your way through traffic doesn’t need your full attention, you also have to deal with idiots who would not think twice about scamming you. Here are a few tips that may help you avoid becoming a motor vehicle insurance fraud statistic:
- Follow the Traffic Rules. Be vigilant by following all the traffic rules and the right of way guidelines. Be aware and conscious of your car’s space and your surroundings (and other motor vehicles on the other lanes). Remember the 3-second rule? Stick to that when you’re on the highway. Driving in the city in traffic? Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Keep a tight rein on your temper, pace yourself and be patient. No need to waste the rest of your day (and quite a bit of your savings) by giving in to hasty and emotional decisions. That’s how they want you to act---don’t give them the satisfaction.
- Drive Safely and Defensively. Be a safe and defensive driver. Remember your driving lessons and the seminars you took while applying for your driver’s license? Go back and refresh your memory about defensive driving. Also, it is wise to know what your rights are as a driver and car owner. Make sure you have the pertinent contact numbers to call---your spouse, your insurance provider, your roadside assistance service, and your lawyer. Knowing whom to call and what to do when you become involved in a vehicular accident will save you time, money, and your life.
- Documentation is Very Important. When you do become involved in a road accident, document everything. Take photos and videos as documentation for yourself, your insurance provider, and most importantly, for the police report. If the other party in the accident is at fault and denies it, make a note of it. Take photos of the license plates of both vehicles, the position of both vehicles, the general area where the accident occurred, the driver and passengers of the other party, and even the bystanders.
- Familiarize yourself with your car insurance policy. Know the ins and outs of your comprehensive car insurance policy, what it covers, and under what circumstances these coverages may be claimed. Or, call your Assurance.Ph Advisor to know more. Scammers may try to trick and maneuver around you, using your words against you during the high-stress, high-pressure aftermath of an accident. Knowing your coverage may give you a better time dealing with them. And if you have a feeling you’re being scammed, report it as soon as the police arrive, and call your insurance provider for guidance.
- Beware of Bystanders Offering Help. I know this goes against what we Filipinos believe in but not everyone who approaches you to offer help is being altruistic. There will be some bystanders who are part of the scam, or they may be running a scam of their own. As soon as you can, call your insurance provider for advice on getting in touch with the right service centers or roadside services to help you with your vehicle. Then, find the time to do your own research on the car service repair shops along your regular route or those closest to your home or office. Get recommendations from your insurance provider on which ones are accredited to handle auto insurance claims.
Being aware that these scams do occur and may happen to you is the first step to avoiding them. Atty. Dennis B. Funa, head of the Insurance Commission notes, in his column in Business Mirror, that in 2017, 10% of the insurance claims that totaled nearly seven billion pesos are fraudulent claims.
A part of this percentage stems from staged scams. If you are a car insurance policyholder and you notice that something may not be right with the situation, inform your insurance providers of your suspicions immediately. If you don’t have vehicle insurance coverage, don’t you think it’s time that you do get one?
Assurance.Ph is your partner in providing protection for your vehicle, property, and passengers in the Philippines. Together with Automart.Ph and Motomart.Ph, we help ensure that vehicle owners have easy and affordable access (both online and offline) to choose and purchase the protection plan that suits their needs and budgets. Start a chat or call with one of your Assurance.Ph advisors today at 0915 705 2031, 0905 205 0402, or 0956 302 9631, or email us at email@example.com to know more about our vehicle insurance prices and packages.