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National Insurance Crime Bureau

Staged Auto Accident Fraud

Staged Accidents are “Big Business”: Don’t Become a Victim

Automobile accidents are a daily occurrence on our nation’s roads and highways, costing the U.S. property-casualty insurance industry billions of dollars in paid accident claims each year. The consequences are even greater, however, for you as an innocent motorist when you become an unwitting participant in a fraud scheme.

Staged Accident

Fraudulent automobile accidents occur more frequently in urban areas where there is a greater volume of vehicles, and also in wealthier communities because drivers there are perceived to have better insurance companies. Criminals often target new, rental, or commercial vehicles because they tend to be well-insured. Further, criminals prey upon women driving alone and senior citizens, as they are thought to be less confrontational at accident schemes.

Common Schemes to Look Out For

Here are a few common caused accident schemes to look out for to avoid being victimized and potentially injured while driving. For more details, see our "Staged Automobile Accident Fraud" brochure.

Drive Down

The victim merges his vehicle into traffic, after having been motioned by the seemingly helpful criminal. As the innocent driver begins to merge, the criminal speeds up and causes a collision. When questioned, the criminal denies motioning the victim to merge. Another variation on this scheme involves motioning an innocent motorist to complete a left turn into a strip mall or other parking structure. The criminal quickly drives up and causes a collision, but the innocent motorist will be held at fault because the driver making a left turn must yield to oncoming traffic.

Panic Stop

The criminal is typically driving an older vehicle filled with passengers. The criminal pulls in front of the victim’s vehicle, and a backseat passenger in the criminal’s car watches for the victim to be distracted by something. Once the victim appears distracted, the backseat passenger tells the driver to slam on the brakes, causing the innocent motorist to rear-end the criminal’s vehicle. The victim’s insurance company then typically must pay for vehicle damage and any injuries the criminal’s passengers claim to suffer.

Side Swipe

This type of crash typically occurs at a busy intersection with dual left-turn lanes. The criminal positions his vehicle in the other lane, and side swipes the car in the inner left-turn lane.


On an ordinary city street:

This typically involves three vehicles, two driven by criminals and the third by an innocent victim. The driver of the “squat” vehicle pulls in front of the victim’s car. The driver of the “swoop” vehicle pulls in front of the squat vehicle, causing the driver of the squat vehicle to hit his brakes. The victim cannot react in time and rear-ends the squat vehicle. The swoop vehicle races off and is not seen again. The victim then typically is responsible for any vehicle damage and personal injury to passengers in the squat vehicle.

On a freeway or expressway:

Similar to the above, but four vehicles are typically involved, with three belonging to criminals. In this variation, the third criminal boxes in the victim so he cannot change lanes when the swoop vehicle cuts off the squat vehicle. Following the crash, the swoop and box-in cars speed off, again forcing the victim’s insurer to pay the claim.

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Staged Accident

  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Immediately call the police to an accident scene.
  • Use the camera function on your cell phone or carry a disposable camera to document damage and the number of occupants in other vehicles.
  • Avoid “runners” and “cappers” – people who suddenly appear at an accident scene to try to direct you to particular doctors and attorneys, as they are typically part of the criminal scheme.
  • Be wary of physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim after an accident, especially if you are not hurt.
  • Steer clear of tow trucks that appear when you have not called for service, as they are often “cappers” for body shops.

Download Staged Auto Accident Resources

You can find more information in NICB’s "Staged Automobile Accident Fraud" brochure (English or Spanish).

These are in PDF format. If you don't have it already installed, download Adobe Reader.

Report Fraud

If you suspect fraud activities, contact NICB.

  1. Call 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422)
  2. Submit a form online.