It is an unfortunate fact that there are people who will take advantage of stressful or even traumatizing event such as car accidents to try and scam you. One of the reasons why Ontario’s car insurance rates are the highest of any province in Canada is because insurance scams are more common here. If you want to avoid falling for car insurance scams, we wrote this guide outlining the most common types of scams with tips on ways protect yourself.
The scammers will have the right of way in a situation but will waive the victim through, and when the victim follows the indication the scammer will accelerate to cause a collision. They will then deny that they made any gesture to make it seem like the victim was at fault.
Here are common situations where this might happen:
- At a stop-sign or intersection
- When changing lanes
- At a driveway into/out of a plaza, shop, etc.
This is one of the most common types of car insurance scams because it is almost impossible for victims to prove that they saw the scammer waive them through without any hard proof.
The scammers will pull in front of the victim and will in some manner purposefully cause the victim to rear-end them. Here are the various ways scammers will do it:
- They wait until the victim takes their eye off the road for any reason and then slams on the breaks so the victim has no time to react
- In stop-and-start traffic they will accelerate quickly as if traffic picked up but then slam on the breaks suddenly to catch the victim while they are still accelerating
- A partner of the scammer pulls alongside the victim so they can’t swerve out of the way when the lead car slams on the breaks
Like the Right-of-Way scam, this is another very common type for the same reason – because most of the time the person that rear ends another vehicle is held at fault.
In a Sideswipe Scam, the scammer will be driving next to someone and deliberately turning into the victim’s car to cause the accident. Here are common scenarios where this could happen:
- Distracted Driver — when the victim drifts close to or even a bit in the scammer’s lane and does not notice them
- On a Tight Turn — where it is more common for drivers to drift close to or in another lane
- When Changing Lanes — when the victim thinks they have space to pull in front of the scammer
The scammer will then claim that the victim was the one who was distracted and caused the accident by veering into them. Sometimes a scammer will try this even if the victim was perfectly within their own lane. This isn’t as common as the first two because side-swiping is not as easy to prove that the other vehicle was at fault.
Useful Tip! Dashboard cameras are a great way to protect yourself against staged accident scams, as they can provide definitive proof of your version of the story rather than relying solely on your word
Whether in a staged or normal accident, the scammer will act as if they suffered a serious injury so they can get a larger payout to cover their medical expenses. But since they were not actually injured that seriously, if at all, they just pocket the insurance money they receive. They will not always act as if they are injured at the scene and will usually claim an injury that is difficult to notice, such as whiplash or other internal injuries.
Similar to the Fake Injury scam, the scammer will claim that their vehicle was damaged far worse than it actually was so they can pocket the insurance payout. A common tactic for scammers who also stage an accident is to have already pre-damaged the vehicle before causing the collision, so it looks like it had that extra damage as a result. However, some scammers will cause fake damage or claim extra damage after the fact instead.
With the Fake Victim scam, someone will claim to have been involved in an accident when they were not. They will also tack on fake injuries to go with their claim. They might be working with another scammer who was in or staged an accident, or they might look out for other accidents to happen normally and then claim they were involved after the fact.
Useful Tip! If you are in an accident, make sure to document as much as you can with your phone’s camera. Take pictures of every vehicle involved as well as the drivers and passengers to show how damaged or injured they were and who was involved. You should also call the police so they can also make their own in case someone tries to make up a fake claim later
Tow Truck/Repair Shop Referrals
In this scam, a tow truck driver that arrives at the scene of an accident will recommend the victim to a repair shop in an innocent manner, but it will turn out that they have a relationship with them. The shop in pays the driver a fee for referring the victim, and to make up that fee the repair shop will pull the real scam on the victim by doing the following:
- Overcharging for legitimate repairs
- Making up “necessary” repairs
- Sell your car for profit if you refuse to pay
Sadly, the last part can actually happen if you and your insurance company refuse to pay their fees, as under the Repair and Storage Liens Act they can sell your vehicle to recoup the “cost” they incurred in repairing your vehicle.
The scammer who was not in the accident will approach the victim who was involved as a “good Samaritan” and make seemingly helpful suggestions that have an ulterior motive behind it. The scammer might avoid suspicion by posing as an authority figure, like an off-duty police officer, EMT, fire fighter, city councillor, doctor, nurse, and so on.
The scammer might be fishing for your personal information to scam you later (such as making false claim), or they might refer you to the following:
- Health clinic
- Repair shop
- Legal service
The scammer would have a similar deal with the businesses they refer as the Tow Truck scammers have with repair shops, as mentioned above. If the victim attends the scammer gets a referral fee and the victim gets overcharged for their services.
Useful Tip! Be extremely cautious when given any unsolicited advice from random people you cannot account for, and if you are uncertain about what you should do you can ask the police or your insurance company. You have the right to use whatever tow truck, repair shop, or health clinic you want.
In Ontario, if you were the victim or witness of a car insurance scam like the above, or if you just want to learn more so you’re better prepared to defend yourself against them, you have a number of resources available to you:
- The Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is the governing body for car insurance regulation and has several tips and resources available to everyone
- The police should be contacted if you are in an accident anyways, but you can also seek them out if you think someone is trying to scam you
- Crime Stoppers has a hotline to report crimes such as scams
- You can contact a lawyer about your legal options if you want to take action against a suspected scammer yourself
The important thing to remember in any car accident situation you find yourself in is that you have rights and do not have to be pressured or lured into anything. Scammers will sometimes try to threaten, intimidate, or reason you into not calling the police, not reporting to the insurance companies, going to a repair shop they want and using their quote rather than getting the opinion of a place you trust, and so on.
Being in a car accident can be very stressful even if there are no injuries, but scammers will try to prey on the situation when you are vulnerable to get money from you or your insurance company. With this guide and tips, you can better prepare yourself for such an eventuality. If you’re not sure about something, remember that you can always ask the police or your insurance company what you should do. Hopefully you will never need to use this guide!