Car-crash scams on the rise

Gangs of thieves stage accidents, fake injuries and then collect millions in fraudulent insurance claims.

Posted by Teresa Mears Tuesday, May 11, 2010 1:21:06 PM

As of last fall, Jonathan Jones had been in 42 car accidents in nine years.


"Maybe I should have been more careful. Maybe . . . well, all right. I definitely should have been more careful," Jones said.

But a report on "Inside Edition" (you can watch it here) pegged Jones as a con man who stages auto accidents and makes fraudulent insurance claims. The "Inside Edition" report shows Jones’ white truck speeding to catch up with another car and then hitting it in a Wal-Mart parking lot in North Carolina. Then he accused the other driver of causing the crash.


Questionable insurance claims from such staged crashes are on the rise, the National Insurance Crime Bureau reported this week, up 46% from 2007 to 2009. Florida leads the list of states with the highest number of claims from staged accidents in the three years (3,006), followed by New York (1,680), California (1,619), Texas (792) and Illinois (433).


The criminals usually work in groups to stage the accidents and make fraudulent insurance claims. A typical scam might include paid witnesses, several drivers, passengers who will claim injuries, and medical providers who will make false claims for the “treatment.” The NICB has free downloadable brochures in English and Spanish explaining staged accident fraud scams as well as other types of fraud.


The NICB also has videos showing some of the most common types of staged accidents.

Auto insurance fraud adds $200 to $300 a year to the average annual insurance policy cost, Joanne Helperin wrote at, citing statistics from the NICB. But that’s not all you pay because every business has to buy insurance, which is factored into the cost of goods and services.


Staged accidents are just one type of insurance fraud, Helperin said. A type becoming more common in the recession is when an owner who is “upside down” on a car loan abandons the car, maybe dumping it into a lake or torching it, then reports it stolen.


Jones, the North Carolina bad driver interviewed by "Inside Edition," was charged with 11 counts of insurance fraud and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon for using his car to hit drivers in parking lots. He received probation and a suspended sentence on at least some of the counts, according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections offender database.

Here are some tips from the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud to avoid becoming a victim of a staged accident:

  • Never tailgate. This will give you ample time to stop if the driver in front of you suddenly steps on the brakes.
  • If you’re involved in a collision, count how many passengers were in the other car. Get their names, phone numbers and driver's license numbers.
  • Pay attention to how the passengers behave. Did they stand around and joke, but suddenly act "injured" when the police arrived?
  • Keep a camera with you. Take pictures of the other car, the damage it received and the passengers.
  • Call the police and get a police report, even for minor damage. A police report that says the accident caused only a few scratches will make it harder for crooks to claim serious injuries or major damage.
  • Call your state insurance fraud bureau if a stranger tries to steer you to an unknown body shop, doctor, chiropractor or lawyer. Give officials the names, addresses and phone numbers of these providers.
  • Keep careful records of your medical treatments. Compare those against the statements you receive to make sure the bill wasn't padded or treatments fabricated.

Related reading:

Tags: accidentauto insurancecar insurancecarsfraudinsuranceinsurance claimsinsurance fraudTeresa Mears
Reminds me of the movie "Curly Sue", where a homeless man, played by James Belushi, positions himself to get hit by drivers driving expensive cars (such as Jaguars, BMW's, and Mercedes-Benzes) in order to extort money from the drivers, assuming that someone who drives such a car is rich. Don't remember the name of the little girl that played Curly Sue, his daughter, though.  "Curly Sue" was also one of the late John Hughes's last films.
5/12/2010 2:33 PM
Not implying that there aren't con-artists out there, but...after watching the Inside Edition video, 'Jones' clearly has a defense in this instance.  For those who don't know (MOST people), when the "victim" cuts across what looks to be parking slots from one driving lane to another...that's illegal!  So, 'Jones' can easily argue he was cut-off and couldn't react quick enough.
5/12/2010 2:19 PM
sky girl in hockeytown what does your comment have to do with the article? They are talking about auto to auto accidents.  Geesh people leave comments that actually have to do with the article or don't say anything at all
5/12/2010 12:21 PM

What about self absorbed, thoughtless drivers who hit cyclists?  With summer coming up, and the high price of gasoline, there are more people on bikes.  It's hazardous to our health to be on a bike, sometimes.  Which is ironic, that's one of the reasons I ride.

5/12/2010 10:39 AM
This is hardly the real truth as in CO like most states the laws are set up to protect the Insurance Industry. If you're hit and injured and after about three years enter the courtroom for trial, the fact that the guilty party is insured or even heavily insured can't be mentioned. In fact just saying the very word insurance will immediately be grounds for dismissal. The whole system is rigged and not for the injured but for the Lawyers and Insurance Companies. The numbers of fraud cases may be going up, but on a case by case basis no one is getting rich by this and the truth is that the poor economy and high jobless rate and poor paying jobs are the real driving factors. 
5/12/2010 12:05 AM
 You admit your from California? A ha ha ha haha ahhaa hahaha....oh sheet... ahahaha hahah hahha hahah  a hahah...your in mexico!!!!!!!
5/11/2010 11:55 PM

And to joey the liberal illegal alien,of course there are different races here in cali u putz,the difference we are talking about is someone who is here legally is called an American,So it would be an actual another American that didnt have insurance if they hit you.What do you think would happen if I went to Mexico and crashed into someone, told them I had no insurance and i'm from the good old USA. This is why we have the problems we have, some people no comprende.

5/11/2010 7:51 PM
Is it not funny though that once you get your vehicle paid off. That's usually when someone hits you? As for the fraud when someone is a thief they usually get caught sooner or later.

They never seem to stop when they think they got way with it the first time. Plus in California every time you are in an accident regardless of fault. You are supposed to report it to the DMV. If not they could suspend your license.

So in all actuality the insurance companies catch on. When you buy insurance to many accidents would look very odd. Bet that's why the JONES guy got caught.

5/11/2010 7:45 PM
You know what there are citizens who do not pay for insurance as well. So the vote for the racist Rant in a state like California? Just because he says he would be tough on illegal's? Is just showing how ignorant you actually are.

Vote for Meg at least she can run a business (EBAY) and more than likely is a better bet than the insurance commissioner that you actually are pissed at. For the double insuring of ones self.

If he could not do his job in the industry how the hell can he run a whole state. As for liberal he spent about 14% on cars the state really did not need. They often sell the older ones just so they do not lose that money in the budget the following year.

Plus I got broadsided awhile back. The guy ran a stop sign was MEXICAN and had full coverage. Through a good insurance company go figure. He totaled his car and jacked my truck up pretty good.

There are plenty of every Race and culture here in California that do not have insurance. Legal and illegal people. So how is that Arnie republicant doing?

5/11/2010 6:25 PM
My Bumper Sticker Says: HIT ME, I AM IRONMAN!
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