How to protect yourself from insurance fraud and staged auto accidents: Internet ScamBusters #74
In today's issue, we'll tell you about an offline scam you may not know anything about that has reached epidemic proportions -- and often has serious physical health, as well as financial, consequences.
Plus, we'll talk about an important developing trend in email viruses you may not have heard about yet.
Time to get going...
Staged Auto Accidents -- Reaching Epidemic Proportions
This scam is somewhat surprising in its scope and danger.
In this scam, fraudsters maneuver innocent drivers into auto accidents. The accident may be small or large -- but the claims for auto damage and fake injuries are always large.
These accidents are often staged by organized crime rings and they are now rampant.
Unfortunately, these scams can impact you in at least three ways:
1. Victims have been injured, terrorized, and even killed. A 71-year-old grandmother was killed in Bayside, NY, and an entire family (including a baby) was killed when one of these staged accidents went wrong.
2. Victims' insurance rates often rise -- often by hundreds of dollars -- because of a costly claim on your record. Sometimes, an auto policy may not even be renewed.
3. Victims waste a lot of time dealing with police reports, car repairs, claim settlements, and sometimes lawsuits.
These staged auto accidents have reached epidemic proportions in Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and other states.
How this scam works
There are at least four variants of this scam:
1. "Swoop and Squat." The scammer swoops in front of you, jams on the brakes, and you hit them from the rear. Inside the scammer's car are passengers who then pretend to have severe and painful injuries, even if the collision was at a very low speed.
2. "Drive Down." As you are merging into traffic, the scammer slows down and waves you forward. He then rams into your car and denies waving you into traffic, and of course, blames the accident entirely on you.
3. "Sideswipe." At a busy intersection with a dual left-turn lane, the scammer deliberately sideswipes you if you accidentally drift into the outer lane while completing the turn.
4. "Shady Helpers." Whether you've had a legitimate or staged accident, a stranger approaches you to convince you to use a specific auto-body shop, doctor or chiropractor, or lawyer. It may be a setup: you could easily get poor and overpriced work done, shoddy or no treatment, or bad legal advice.
What to do
Here are six suggestions for how to protect yourself and fight back:
1. Don't tailgate, which helps reduce the chance of "swoop and squat."
2. Always keep a pen and paper and inexpensive camera in your glove compartment so you can be prepared if you're ever in an accident. Write down all the important info immediately if you're in an accident: license plate number, insurance info, etc. Take pictures of the damage done to both cars and the passengers.
3. If you're in a collision, count the number of passengers in the other car and get their names, phone numbers, and driver's license numbers. That way, people not in the car cannot make claims against you.
4. Call the police immediately even if there is just minor damage. Get a police report, including the officer's name. Make sure it accurately describes the degree of damage.
5. Watch how the people in the other car behave. If they stand around joking until the police come -- and then all of a sudden complain loudly about pain -- you know something isn't right.
6. Only use medical, car repair and legal professionals you trust.
For more information on this scam, visit:
A Developing Trend in Email Viruses
We've recently gotten a lot of additional email which points to a file that is supposedly about you. The idea is that because the info in the file is about you, you should open it. If you do, you (inadvertently) spread a virus.
Two recent examples of this are:
Subject: Stolen document
I found this document about you.
+++ Attachment: No Virus found
+++ MC-Afee AntiVirus - www.mcafee.com
Subject: Internet Provider Abuse
You have visited illegal websites.
I have a big list of the websites you surfed.
Both are examples of the Netsky virus. You can read more about it -- including how to remove it -- at:
There are two disturbing trends here:
1. The email claims to have info about you that is supposedly important for you to see (thereby increasing the likelihood you'll spread the virus); and
2. Incorrect info that no virus was found in the first message (when, in fact, the attachment is an infected file).
Our recommendations: Be aware that spammers and virus creators are getting more sophisticated. We've talked about this a lot lately in terms of phishing scams -- and you can see this is true for viruses as well. Be VERY careful about opening any attachments, and follow the virus advice we've shared in past issues. Visit: