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News: 2013 Press Release

For Release: September 16, 2013
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Live demonstration of staged auto collisions that target innocent drivers
Schemes used by scam artists endanger other drivers and cost the unsuspecting public

LOS ANGELES, Calif. ― Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey warned drivers today to be alert for staged auto collisions that target innocent drivers.

Last year 59.5 percent of all insurance fraud referrals received by the California Department of Insurance were for suspected automobile insurance fraud. In Los Angeles County alone, the Department of Insurance received over 7,700 suspected auto fraud claims. Los Angeles makes up nearly 43 percent of all auto related insurance fraud in California.

The most common scheme typically used in a staged collision is the swoop-and-squat. This scheme involves two vehicles working together to box in a target vehicle and forcing a collision.

These staged crashes are most often perpetrated by organized crime. Stagers target high value vehicles such as commercial vehicles, expensive luxury vehicles, and vehicles owned by cities or counties. These vehicles are targeted because there is a virtual guarantee of insurance coverage.

"When I took office as Insurance Commissioner in 2011, I pledged to use all the resources available to my department to stop insurance fraud and bring these criminals to justice," said Commissioner Jones. "We have been successful in reducing fraud and increasing the number of criminals brought to justice. To date, my department has conducted hundreds of auto fraud investigations and arrested more than 1500 people statewide for various types of auto fraud."

The department helped prevent nearly $143 million in automotive fraud claims, which could have been lost by insurance companies last year. While the potential fraud was avoided through collaborative work of the California Department of Insurance and local partners, actual loses still increase the cost of business to insurance companies and these losses are passed along to policy holders through increased rates.

"Los Angeles County has the dubious distinction of being the state's epicenter for auto insurance fraud," District Attorney Lacey said. "The impact of that fraud on working families in Los Angeles County is real and substantial. My office along with the California Department of Insurance is committed to investigating and prosecuting the criminals who participate in these staged collisions. These wrecks are costly not only in terms of financial loss but also may have the unintended consequence of injuring or killing innocent motorists on our streets and highways."

If you suspect you or someone you know are the victim of a staged collision insist on a police report; document as much information about the collision as possible, use a cell phone to document the post-collision damage with photographs or video; ask the peace officer to positively identify everyone involved, report the suspicious collision to the California Department of Insurance by calling 800-927-HELP (4357) or visit our website at www.insurance.ca.gov.

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Media Notes:

After a collisionlook for these following red-flags of fraudulent activity:

  • The other car is packed with passengers.
  • The other driver has a relatively new insurance policy.
  • The other car is in poor condition or has a "salvage" title.
  • Traffic was flowing smoothly and the other driver stopped suddenly.
  • The other driver and/or the passengers make extra effort to avoid conversation about the other vehicles in the area.
  • There is a witness that substantiates everything the other driver says.
  • The other driver and his passengers all claim injury despite relatively minor collision damage to the vehicles.

Video of a driving demonstration on how to avoid a "swoop-and-squat" collision will be posted to the California Department of Insurance You-Tube channel.

To view photos from today's press conference, visit CDI's Flickr page.

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The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California, regulating the $123 billion insurance marketplace. In 2012 the California Department of Insurance received more than 160,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $64 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP. Out-of-state callers, please dial 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

If you are a member of the public wishing information, please visit our Consumer Services.

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