Here’s an interesting side effect of the distracted driving epidemic: It’s easier than ever for insurance fraudsters to stage car accidents. And police departments across the country are reporting an increase in the number of cases. So, here’s how to protect yourself – and your wallet:

  • First: Don’t tailgate. One of the oldest ways to fake an accident is called the swoop and squat. A crook pulls their car in front of you and hits the brakes. And if you make contact, you’re at fault, because you hit them from behind.
  • Next: Use extra caution in parking lots. Another easy way to stage a rear-end collision is to throw a car into reverse, and back into someone who’s looking for a spot. The unscrupulous driver then claims you rammed them and caused an injury. Insurance expert Helga Schauer says that your horn is a great defense against this trick. A loud honk scares offenders away because they know it attracts attention. And if there are witnesses, they can’t file a fraudulent claim.

So, what should you do if you’re involved in an accident? Document the event like you’re a reporter. Use your phone’s camera to take pictures of the damage.

And if you can, videotape the movements of the people who were in the other car. Because crooks often wait for police and rescue vehicles to show up before faking injuries. You also want to get the names and addresses of every person in the other vehicle. That’s because a lot of criminals list fictional passengers so they can file additional injury claims.

Finally: If you’re involved in any situation that appears fishy, call your insurance carrier’s Fraud Division. You can also report it to The National Insurance Crime Bureau hotline at 800-TEL-NICB.