Desperate times call for desperate measures. The Great Recession has forced millions out of jobs, and forced millions more to drastically slash expenses; we hear the top execs at Goldman Sachs recently told their chauffeurs to fill their personal limos with regular instead of premium unleaded, for God's sake.
Unfortunately, others have turned to crime -- and we're not just talking about good ol' fashioned slip-a-pantyhose-mask-over-your-head-and-rob-a-gas-station crime, but staging car accidents.
And Texans are among the worst offenders, according to a report the National Insurance Crime Bureau issued this month.
According to the NCIB, "staged accident questionable claims increased 46 percent from 2007 through 2009." Texas ranked number three on the offenders list, with 792 cases. (Florida grabbed the gold with 3,006). And Houstonians should be especially proud, because the Bayou City came in at number five on the list of cities, with 376 staged accidents.
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"But wait, Hair Balls," you say. "What exactly is a staged auto accident?" Well, fortunately for us doe-eyed innocents, the NICB has been helpful enough to post videos illustrating the most common types of schemes, such as the "Left Turn Drive Down," the "Panic Stop," and our favorite, the "Swoop and Squat." (By the way, we're pretty sure you aren't supposed to use these as how-to guides, but really...if you ever wanted to know how to go out and successfully commit fraud, the NICB just did you a huge service).
But what can you do to avoid being a mark for these bastards (besides not live in Houston)? The NICB recommends you avoid tailgating, call the police to the accident scene, carry a disposable camera to document any damage, "avoid people who suddenly appear at an accident scene and try to direct you to unscrupulous doctors and attorneys," and "be wary of physicians who insist you file a personal injury claim after an accident, especially if you are not hurt."
We're going to be extra-cautious, though, and pull our Big Wheel out of storage. We dare these scammers to pull a Swoop and Squat on the King of the Sidewalk!