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The "Swoop and Squat"-Staged Auto Accident Fraud

With nationwide economic conditions that can only charitably be described as "uncertain," the prevalence of dishonest methods for making money have been on the increase, as they normally are during difficult times. The car insurance industry has certainly felt the effects of this phenomenon; from increased rates of uninsured drivers to higher rates of insurance fraud in many areas of the country. One particular brand of auto insurance fraud which has gained prominence over the past few years is known as the "swoop and squat", a particular version of staged auto accident fraud.

What is the "Swoop and Squat?"

In a typical swoop and squat setup, at least two conspirators drive through the streets looking for someone to take advantage of. Normally the car driven by these co-conspirators is some old junker. Their target is usually a lone driver with no passengers, and they usually concentrate on city roads with two lanes traveling in each direction. When they spot a victim driving alone in an area with no potential eyewitnesses, they "swoop"-pulling in front of the other car-then "squat", hitting the brakes so that the scam victim rear ends their vehicle.

Since these accidents are normally staged on surface streets and not on highways, usually the damage to each car is minimal and no major injuries are sustained by the victim or the occupants of the perpetrating vehicle. What happens next is what ends up costing the victim and their insurance company a great deal of money in the long haul. The co-conspirators participating in the scam get out of their car and survey the damage to the rear end. They optimistically estimate the damage to not amount to much, and report that they did not suffer any injuries in the accident. As long as the scam victim also does not report being seriously injured, the perpetrators suggest leaving police and insurance companies out of the accident and handling the situation themselves, pointing out the potential cost to both parties' insurance premiums. They exchange contact information and say they will get an estimate for the cost of repairing their back bumper.

But a few days down the road, the story begins to change. Rather than an estimate from a body shop saying the repair will be something like $100, the attorney representing the perpetrating driver contacts the victim and tells them the damage was much more substantial than previously thought. On top of this, he reports that both the driver and passenger of the other vehicle are experiencing severe back pain consistent with whiplash, and are currently under the care of a chiropractor. At this point, the scam victim has no other choice but to involve the auto insurance company.

The trouble is, since there were no eyewitnesses and no police report, the victim is definitely facing a challenging situation. After all, the other driver already got his insurance involved, and he has already gotten medical care as a result of the accident. In some cases, the victim decides it might be cheaper to agree to pay for the medical care of the other driver and passenger, as well as compensation for pain and suffering, rather than risk the case going further in the legal process. One of the chief things the victim was trying to avoid when they decided not to involve their insurance company and the police is now coming to pass. The victim's insurance rates are increased as a result of what the insurer sees as an at-fault accident; in some cases, the victim is even non-renewed or cancelled, and subsequently has trouble finding affordable rates due to this mark on their record [1].

This is only one specific incarnation of the swoop and squat staged auto accident scam, with others involving up to four cars coordinating efforts via cell phone. The swoop and squat is not limited to city surface streets, either; some perpetrators commit this act on freeways at higher speeds, creating the impression of more extensive back and neck injuries. Often the additional cars work to form a box around the victim's car, so that they have no way of escaping the accident. Some of the more elaborate swoop and squat setups also involve fraudulent doctors who will diagnose imaginary back and neck injuries, and lawyers who will work to file these fraudulent claims. The largest scam networks may even include tow truck drivers, ambulance workers, police officers and hospital medical personnel.

Swoop and squat car accident fraud is not a new invention, but is has become more common and prominent in recent years, with officials uncovering elaborate rings found to be responsible for millions of dollars worth of fraudulent claims. In larger cities especially, this particular form of auto insurance fraud has become more of a problem nationwide.

Are Certain Drivers More Vulnerable to Staged Accident Fraud than Others?

As the swoop and squat staged auto accident insurance fraud scam has become more common, various reports from around the country indicate that single drivers, especially women and seniors, are targeted more often than other groups. Whether this is intentional or not probably depends on the specific case. Some perpetrators focus their search on finding single drivers with no passengers on city streets in areas with low traffic density, while others do try to prey on older women specifically.

Since swoop and squat scams operate on the premise of filing fraudulent claims against the victim's auto insurance policy, they require targeting a well-insured vehicle. This means that most of the time, they will look for single drivers of upscale, late-model vehicles, which tend to be covered by comprehensive auto insurance policies. The ideal target for these scams, then, would be an older woman driving a late-model car with no passengers.

How Can I Prevent Being a Victim of a "Swoop and Squat"?

One of the best ways you can protect yourself from being a victim of a swoop and squat staged car accident is to always keep a safe following distance between yourself and the car in front of you. Doing so can help you to react if at any time the car ahead of you happens to slam on their brakes, and can give you a better chance to avoid getting involved in something like this.

As a matter of fact, maintaining a safe following distance is a great way to avoid car accidents in general. Following the rules of the road and doing everything you can to avoid getting involved in a collision is really about all you can do to avoid these types of scrapes.

With the national economy struggling to regain momentum after an extended recession, criminal acts preying upon unsuspecting victims are more commonplace than they are in times of economic plenty. Many individuals who would normally not participate in such unscrupulous activities become involved, either from the need to make ends meet at home or owing to pressure from friends and associates. Being aware of the danger of falling victim to this scam and the warning signs that such a staged accident is about to be attempted can help you to avoid being victimized.

[1] Retrieved 2009-12-13.



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