Auto repair insurance fraud is not as widely known or publicized as automobile accident insurance fraud. However, it is still a major problem that costs insurance policy holders millions of dollars a year. If you are ever involved in an automobile accident, and your car (or the car of the other driver) is damaged, there are several things that you can do to help spot insurance repair fraud and possibly protect your policy in the process.
- Be Prepared - The best way to help yourself from being defrauded in a car accident or repair scam is to be prepared. Always keep the telephone number of your car insurance company, a notepad, a pen or pencil and a disposable 35mm camera in your glove compartment or trunk.
- Record the Event - If you are involved in an accident or other situation which might cause you (or your insurance company) to be responsible for repairs to another vehicle, make sure to immediately photograph all vehicles involved in the incident. Also, make sure to record all information regarding the driver or owner of the other vehicle. Finally, make sure to write down the exact make, model and license plate number of all vehicles involved in the incident.
- Contact Your Insurer Immediately - Don't delay in contacting your insurance company. Use the contact number on your certificate of insurance coverage and call the insurer immediately (while at the scene of the accident or incident). Ask the representative that answers your call how you should proceed - then, follow his/her instructions on how to go about handling the incident and the claim.
- Watch for "Build Up" - While at the scene of the incident, try to determine if any damage to the vehicle occurred before the event. Sometimes, drivers of other vehicles may try to include damage from a previous accident or mechanical breakdown in a claim against you or your insurance company. The use of the 35mm camera (as mentioned above) will help reduce the risk of this happening to you.
- Verify Estimates Provided by Other Drivers - If the driver or owner of another vehicle provides you with estimates or repair quotes, always contact the mechanic or repair shop listed on the quote before forwarding the quotes to your insurance company.
- When contacting the repair shop, ask to speak to the mechanic or technician who inspected the other vehicle and ask if any of the damage or problems appear to have been present for an extended period of time. Also, ask the mechanic or repair shop if the prices quoted for replacement parts are for new, used or remanufactured parts.
- Investigate Service Providers - If you are given estimates or quotes from a mechanic or shop that you are unfamiliar with, contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area. Ask the BBB if there are complaints listed for the individual or business and also ask if the quote provider is involved in any complaints regarding fraud. Shops that help unethical car owners engage in a car insurance repair scam or fraud seldom do so only once or twice. So, a quick check with the BBB could help you reduce the risks for yourself and your insurance company.
Remember, everything that you can do to help your insurance company reduce the chances of repair fraud benefits us all - in the form of lower policy premiums and fewer cancellations.