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Staged auto accidents are on the rise, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). In one version - the "swoop and squat" - two vehicles pass you. One pulls in front of the other, forcing the second car to brake suddenly. This causes you to rear-end the second car, becoming liable for damage. Meanwhile, the first car flees. To help protect yourself from becoming a victim, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • PAY ATTENTION TO THE TRAFFIC AROUND YOU. This is especially important if you drive an expensive, late-model or commercial vehicle that is likely to be heavily insured. Be wary of cars driving too slowly, erratically, or not allowing you to pass.
  • LOOK BEYOND THE VEHICLE IN FRONT OF YOU. Start braking as soon as traffic begins to slow, even if the car in front of you does not slow down.
  • STAY THREE SECONDS BEHIND THE VEHICLE YOU'RE FOLLOWING. This allows adequate time to brake. Start counting the seconds when the car in front passes a road sign, or crosses a shadow or line in the road.
  • IF YOU HIT ANOTHER CAR, COUNT THE OCCUPANTS. "Swoop and squat" scams often involve older-model vehicles carrying many passengers. Obtain the occupants' full names, telephone numbers, and drivers' license numbers. This identifying information help prevent others who were not in the car, from filing false claims.
  • CALL THE POLICE TO THE SCENE. Request a detailed police damage report. This prevents scam artists from damaging their vehicles later and blaming you.
  • REPORT SUSPECTED SCAMS TO THE NICB. Their hotline number is 1-800-TEL-NICB.
Accidents are traumatic enough. By following these tips, you may be able to prevent yourself from being involved in an incident that happens "accidentally on purpose."