Innocent drivers forced into crashes

Investigators explain how scammers stage auto accidents

They are predators on the road.  Scam artists looking to rip off insurance companies and they make you and your car a target.

"Make money by having an actual job. Instead of going around scamming innocent people," said one victim who doesn't want to reveal her identity.

She is still angry after she got tangled in an insurance scam by simply being at an intersection.

"I was stopped at a stop sign and a car was going to turn left in front of me," she said. "So, she waved me on… As I was turning she hit the back of my car."

As soon as it happened, the victim approached the other car.

"I asked if everyone was OK, and they all had a different ailment. It was, 'It's my neck, my knee, my eye.' They were all wearing seat belts. So, I knew that I had been scammed right away," she said.

Immediately, the victim says she grabbed her phone.

"I started taking pictures with my cell phone. That seemed to upset them greatly. They didn't want me taking pictures of their car or anyone in the car, because I knew they weren't telling the truth. There was no way they could have injured themselves in the way they were describing just by a little bump to my car," she explained.

Postal inspectors say the victim was one of 80 targeted by this group alone.  Total loses came to $130,000.


"All of a sudden they're in this car accident and they have no idea how they got there because they were being waved on," explained U.S. Postal Inspector Stephanie Barrett.

Another version of the scam occurs in parking lots when the victim is backing out of a spot.

"The suspects car would stop and wave them out of the parking spot. And they would start going out of the spot and the suspect car would drive as fast as they could and hit the other vehicle," warned Barrett.

Inspectors got a lucky break.

"On her case, we happened to get the black box from the vehicle the suspect was driving," said Barrett. "It shows them going from a dead stop at 0 miles per hour to 30 in 2 seconds in order to hit her car."

"I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt. I'm trusting by nature but it has hardened me to not really believe everything someone says or does," said the victim.

Inspectors say this is not an easy scam to avoid.  It's recommended you always take photos and video after the accident showing exactly who was there and how they appeared after the crash.  (Information on Florida's insurance fraud law that took affect in 2013.)

Want to see how this scam works? The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud has diagrams showing different scenarios of how staged auto crashes are typically done.