Tampa, Florida -- Look out Miami! Tampa is taking over as the statewide leader when it comes to auto insurance fraud. This is not a claim to fame the city wants to have and it's not looking much better on the national level, with Tampa ranking second nationwide.
It's believed the surge of auto insurance fraud cases where the scammers stage auto accidents is up in Tampa because they are being squeezed out of Miami by investigators.
Alex Sink, Florida's Chief Financial Officer, joined Tampa Police and Allstate Insurance representatives to promise a crackdown on these scammers.
"It represents millions of dollars of fraud and the reason it's important to us, the everyday person, is because the insurance companies just take the costs of that and put it back into our premiums," said CFO Sink.
Police officers demonstrated a common technique used by the accident stagers known as a "swoop and squat" where an unsuspecting driver is targeted.
But, state investigators say the type of staged accident they see the most in the Sunshine state involves only the criminals themselves. They stage the accident, file fraudulent claims for injury and damage, and ultimately pocket the money from the insurance company.
'You and I are paying for the cost of auto insurance fraud," said Amy Moore, a spokeswoman for Allstate Insurance.
"An everyday driver that has an auto insurance policy is paying for auto insurance fraud in the form of higher insurance premiums and the estimate is around $200 to $300 annually," Moore added.
If you know of someone who has committed insurance fraud, you could be eligible for a reward of up to $25,000 if state investigators are able to prove it. You can file a fraud report on-line with the Florida Department of Financial Services or call the fraud hotline at: 1-800-378-0445.
You can take steps to protect yourself. Insurance companies advise you to follow cars at a safe distance when you're on the road. If you get into an accident, be sure to have a disposable camera or your cell phone camera ready to take pictures of the scene, a notepad to take notes about what happened, and collect the driver's information and license plate information and any witness information. You are also advised to file a report with police and be wary of unsolicited tow truck drivers who arrive on scene.
Laura Kadechka, 10 Connects