Staged collisions in Ontario are a major problem. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) estimates that fraud adds approximately $1.6 billion to the province’s annual insurance tab, and staged collisions make up a huge proportion of that. Although the problem is mainly prevalent in Ontario, the signs are that western provinces should begin to become more aware of the problem and start putting preventative measures into place.
Scam artists are becoming more and more savvy when it comes to auto insurance fraud, and are launching sophisticated attacks against both the insurance and health industries. In some scams, all the individuals are involved. In others, there is an innocent victim. The IBC has put together a very helpful video for drivers, which we highly recommend watching. In many cases, the collision is just the start of the scam.
Different types of staged collisions
Staged collisions involve fooling another driving into taking an action, then causing an accident. Among the most common are:
The “swoop and squat” scam, which requires two other vehicles to work. One scam artist swoops in front of another scammer, effectively cutting them off. The second driver slams on their brakes, causing an innocent party to rear end them. One effective way to avoid this scam is to always drive defensively and keep plenty of space in front of your vehicle. Road safety experts recommend allowing at least three seconds in good weather. Count how long it takes you to pass the same object, such as a light pole, as the driver before you. In wet and snowy weather, leave four to six seconds, and if conditions are very inclement, it’s wise to adjust to up to 10 seconds or more.
The “drive down” scam happens in parking lots. As you begin to back out of your space, a scammer will pull up, stop, and wave you on to keep backing out. They then accelerate into you and claim the collision was your fault. To avoid this particular scam, if someone waves you on, just ignore it and pull back into your spot to let them pass. Be cautious and patient when backing out of your spot. Do not leave until the coast is completely clear. Whenever possible, reverse into parking spots, which helps immensely when it is time to leave.
The “bullet left turn” scam happens at uncontrolled intersections. The innocent driver is turning left, and the oncoming scammer waves them through the intersection. They then drive into the innocent driver and claim it was their fault. You can avoid this by being wary of accepting the right of way when making a left turn. Although they may seem like a kind person, do not allow anyone to wave you through. And, of course, always leave plenty of space between you and oncoming vehicles.
Signs of a staged collision
Signs a collision may have been staged are:
- The other parties not wanting to share contact information or identify themselves.
- Inconsistent stories in terms of how the crash occurred.
- Exiting the vehicle and immediately claiming to be injured, such as rubbing a “sore neck.”
- The other party pressures you to use their tow truck company or mechanic.
- A tow truck driver “just happens” to be at the scene. They are more than likely involved in the scam.
The fraud can keep happening even after the crash. As mentioned, there may be tow truck operators involved, with drivers who work in conjunction with repair shops and storage facilities. Shady physio and massage therapy outfits can also be involved.
Be sure to take photos of everything, including all damage to both vehicles, skid marks on the road, the participants (if you have to, be sneaky about it), and any documentation they do present, including their license plate. Call your insurance company right away (you can find the number on your pink slip), and if your car is driveable, go straight to a police station to report the incident. Dashboard cameras are a great way to protect your yourself against fraud and can act as a very reliable witness.
If you think you have been involved in a staged collision, you can make an anonymous call at any time of the day to the Équité/Crime Stoppers Canada tip line at 1-877-422-TIPS or submit an anonymous tip via Équité Association.
Trust Lane’s for your auto insurance needs
We at Lane’s work for you, not for the insurance companies. We are able to contrast and compare the policies provided by a number of Canada’s most respected providers to ensure you’re getting the advice and the coverage that protects your best interests – and you. At the same time, we can also make sure you are qualifying for as many discounts as possible. Contact us at our offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Banff, or across Alberta.