News 3 Special Report: "Highway Hustlers" - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

News 3 Special Report: "Highway Hustlers"

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"Staged" or fake auto accidents are costing car insurance companies and consumers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and resulting in increased premiums and serious injuries. But, there are some ways to protect yourself.
 
“Make money by having an actual job. Instead of going around scamming innocent people," says a woman who is still angry after she got tangled in an insurance scam by simply being at an intersection.
 
“I was stopped at a stop sign and a car was going to turn left in front of me. So, she waved me on…as I was turning she hit the back of my car," she says.
 
As soon as it happened, she approached the other car.
 
“I asked if everyone was ok, and they all had a different ailment. It was ‘it’s my neck., my knee, me eye.’ they were all wearing seatbelts. So, I knew that I had been scammed right away.”

Immediately she grabbed her cell phone.
 
“I started taking pictures with my cell phone. That seemed to upset them greatly. They didn’t want me taking pictures of their car or anyone in the car, because I knew they weren’t telling the truth. There was no way they could have injured themselves in the way they were describing just by a little bump to my car," she says.
 
Postal inspectors say the victim was one of 80 targeted by this group alone. Total loses $130,000.
 
“All of a sudden they’re in this car accident and they have no idea how they got there because they were being waved on," says U.S. Postal Inspector Stephanie Barrett.
 
Another version of the scam occurs in parking lots when the victim is backing out of a spot.
 
“The suspects car would stop and wave them out of the parking spot. And they would start going out of the spot and the suspect car would drive as fast as they could and hit the other vehicle," says Barrett.
 
Inspectors got a lucky break.
 
“On her case, we happened to get the black box from the vehicle the suspect was driving. It shows them going from a dead stop at 0 miles per hour to 30 in 2 seconds in order to hit her car," says Barrett.


 Postal inspectors say this is not an easy scam to avoid. Always take photos and video after the accident showing exactly who was there and how they appeared after the accident.

 

Sarah Panko

Sarah is the anchor/ producer for News Three First Edition at 5/4 central time. She also brings you the latest Consumer Reports on the Nightwatch at 11/10 central. More>>

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