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Staged auto accidents on the rise in Tampa
Latest News Local

TAMPA (Bay News 9) -- Authorities are trying to warn Bay area residents about staged auto accidents that puts consumers on the hook for the crimes.

Police call the scam "swoop and squat," and it happens when criminals intentionally cause car crashes, then file claims with insurance companies and pocket the money.

Police said the perpetrators will drive two cars, one right after the other. The first car will pull out in front of the second car, which causes that driver to hit the brakes. Often, the innocent driver behind them has no choice but to slam into the second car.

This kind of crime happens often in the Bay area. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Tampa ranks first in Florida and second in the entire country when it comes to staged auto accidents.

Allstate Insurance spokesperson Amy Moore said staged auto accidents are happening more and more often, and consumers are the ones who end up paying the price.

"It raises our insurance premiums as much as $200 to $300 every year," she said.

Experts said that, when it comes to avoiding the scam, common sense is the best tool. Drivers should keep plenty of distance between their cars and the ones ahead of them, and they should also pay close attention to what is happening around them.

Drivers who suspect they might be involved in a phony crash are advised to call police and file a report. Put details of the crash in writing, exchange information with the other drivers involved, get contact information from any witnesses, and if possible, take pictures of the crash for evidence.

The state is also offering $25,000 rewards for information on phony claims that lead to an arrest.

Anyone who is convicted of this kind of insurance fraud could go to prison for up to five years.

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