Caught on camera: Insurance fraud backfires on scammer


Insurance fraud is a multi-million dollar crime that costs all of us money. This video from the dash cam of a UK driver shows just how brazen insurance fraudsters can be – but fortunately, the woman had a record of the scam on her dashboard camera.

This type of scam is a global phenomenon – here’s a 2015 compilation of comically inept fraudsters caught on camera. They are comical because there is a record. Without the video, some could turn into costly claims.

These criminals are all pretty ridiculous, but don’t be fooled – there are many sophisticated fraud rings that conduct “swoop and squat” and other staged auto accidents. See our prior post Fraud Watch: Staged Auto Accidents for some video examples of four common types of staged accidents.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud offers more information on some common staged auto crash scams, along with tips for prevention and what to do if you are involved an accident that seems suspicious.

Dash cams haven’t really taken hold here in the U.S. but if you are interested, here’s an article from Digital Trends that talks about the pros and cons: Take a hint from the Russians: It’s time to protect yourself with a dash cam,

Check your tires: It’s National Tire Safety Week


This week is National Tire Safety Week — and before you embark on all those summer day trips and vacations, it’s the perfect time to check your tires to be sure they are roadworthy and will offer you the best driving security.

According to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, tires are safer than ever due to new tire technologies. Government data shows that tire-related crashes decreased by more than 50 percent between 2007 and 2010. Better technologies have led to reduced rolling resistance and better stability and traction in wet road conditions. Plus, “run flat tires” can keep working for up to 50 miles after a puncture.

But to keep tires at peak performance, there are a few best practices, summarized in an excerpt from a tire fact sheet infographic provided by the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association, which offers more information on tire safety.

For more on the care, maintenance and safety of your tires:

How old are your tires? – How to check the age

Tire rating lookup – good to check before you buy new tires.

Tirewise – everything you need to know about buying and maintaining tires.

The life of a tire – We posted this clip a few years back, but think it is well worth recycling – it’s only about 90 seconds, and gives a good overview of what you need to know.

How to test and maintain your tires – Although this prior post focused on prepping tires for winter, there’s a handy infographic that sums up the essentials of what you need to know about taking care of your tires.

Does your new car have a spare tire? Don’t count on it! – Did you know that more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire? You don’t want to be caught short on the highway. Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.

What’s “usage-based insurance” all about?



You may have heard the term “usage based insurance” or UBI and wondered if it’s right for you. Essentially, UBI is technology called telematics that monitors your actual driving behavior and experience. It may be a device installed on your car or on your phone. It can measure many variables, including what, when, where, and how you drive. The collected data is used by insurers to help determine the cost of your insurance.

Expect to hear more and more about UBI. Today, availability is limited to some insurers and some states and it is a choice you make as a consumer. Expect it to continue growing as a mechanism for pricing auto insurance. It’s estimated that by 2020, about 70% of all insurers will use telematics, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

For a good overview, NAIC offers a one page explainer: Understanding Usage-Based Insurance. Or if you’d like a deeper dive on the topic, you can read their trend report on Usage-Base Insurance and Telematics.

NAIC describes how UBI insurance premiums are determined vs how traditional premiums are determined:

“There are several variations of UBI including pay-as-you-drive, pay-how-you-drive, pay-as-you-go and distance-based insurance. These options are different from how insurers charge for traditional auto insurance. Traditional auto insurance relies on actuarial analysis of data including driving record, credit-based insurance score, personal characteristics, vehicle type, garage location and more. A UBI program adds individual driving behaviors as an additional rating factor.

UBI may have a direct impact on your premium as UBI programs associate costs with individual and current driving behaviors instead of relying on statistics based on past trends and events.”

By tracking data, good or infrequent drivers will pay less and frequent or higher risk drivers will pay more. It’s expected that this could yield significant benefits for businesses in managing fleets. In the one-page article linked above, NAIC discusses the pros and cons of this approach for individuals. One frequently cited downside is the issue of privacy – some drivers just don’t like the idea of being tracked; others worry that collected data could be shared with or sold to third parties. Many state regulators are monitoring the privacy issue and requiring disclosure of tracking practices and devices.

Right now, if you talk about telematics and insurance, it is primarily an issue for auto insurance. But expect that some practices may also make their way into home insurance too. While there are still some barriers to adoption there – privacy being one – “smart technologies” or “the Internet of Things” mean that more and more home systems will be able to be measured and tracked. For more on this, see Smartest house on the block: Home telematics and their window for insurers.

Don’t leave money on the table: Talk to your agent about auto insurance discounts


We’re all looking for bargains, and auto insurance is no different than anything else we buy. You should get enough coverage to protect yourself, but don’t want to pay more than you have to. To keep you auto insurance premiums low, first and foremost, be a safe driver and avoid moving violation tickets. Your past experience definitely affects your rates. It’s also important to maintain a good credit history.

Assuming you are a good driver, there are many discounts that you may qualify for. We’ve offered a list of common discounts but be aware that they aren’t all available in every state and not every insurance company offers the same discounts. The savings potential may be substantial enough to shop around among insurers. A good independent agent will be familiar with and suggest the best potential discounts, but you should be sure to ask- particularly if you have had some life change that affects your circumstances, which your agent may not know about unless you tell them.

Here are some of the most common auto insurance discounts

Low mileage: If you work at home, live in a city where you mostly take public transportation, or drive very little, you may be eligible for a low mileage auto discount. The threshold for low mileage may vary by state or insurer. Generally, under 5,000 miles qualifies for the best discounts, but some insurance companies may have low mileage discounts for up to 15,000 miles a year.

Multiple vehicles in one household. If your household is insuring more than one private passenger vehicle with the same insurance company, you may be eligible for a discount.

Bundling. An insurer may offer a substantial discount if you package or “bundle” more than one policy with them. Typically, this would include bundling your auto and your homeowners, condo or rental policy.

Senior discounts. According to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, senior have fewer auto accidents per capita than any other age group. If you’ve just turned 65 or just retired, ask your agent about senior discounts. Some insurers offer senior discounts at even lower age thresholds.

Driver training. Taking an approved defensive driving or auto safety course might qualify you for a discount. Typically, these discounts are available to students or seniors, but check with your agent.

Antitheft devices and safety technology. If you have alarm systems, GPS tracking systems, kill switches, disabling technology, or other anti-theft devices, talk to your insurance agent. Certain safety technologies may also earn a reduced rate. If you have anti-lock brakes, passive restraint systems like airbags, or other safety features, let your agent know.

Being a student with good grades. Ask about student discounts. Many states and many insurers make discounts available to student policyholders who maintain good grades.

Prepayments or paperless payments. If you pay for your insurance upfront rather than in installments, you might earn a savings. Some insurance companies also offer a discount for enrolling in automatic E-bill or automated electronic payments.

Loyalty discounts. Have you been with the same insurer for a number of years? Some will offer loyal customer discounts.

Membership discounts and affiliations. Check with your insurance agent to see if they are affiliated with any membership discounts, such as through AAA or AARP, or other affiliate organizations. Also, check to see if there are any discounts available for active members of the military.

How to avoid driving blind spots


“I didn’t even see it coming!” Most drivers have experienced a close call at one point or another when changing lanes, often due to blind spots. The National Highway Traffic Institute says that blind spots account for more than 800,000 vehicular accidents a year. Blind spots are the areas around our vehicle that we can’t clearly see either with our peripheral vision or by looking in our mirrors, most commonly to the left and right rear of our cars. These blind spots can be affected by many factors: how many visual obstructions there are in the vehicle itself, such us window pillars and headrests, or your height in the driver’s seat, which can affect your external visibility. Blind spots are no joke – they can be big enough to hide an entire vehicle from your view.

The usual prescription for minimizing blind spots is a two-step process: properly adjusting your mirrors and physically turning your head to check before changing lanes.

But the question is, how do you properly adjust mirrors? Most people adjust side mirrors so that they can see the right and left rear flanks of their vehicle, but safety experts are now telling us that this is wrong: The Society of Automotive Engineers says that we should adjust the mirrors further outward to create a greater arc of visibility and this will eliminate blind spots entirely. See more about their recommendation, along with a diagram at How To: Adjust Your Mirrors to Avoid Blind Spots.

This short video goes into more detail and demonstrates exactly how:

Crash avoidance technologies

Many new cars are equipped with sensor and alert technologies either for blind spot detection or lane change warning systems designed to aid us in crash avoidance. As with many other crash avoidance systems, the technologies are still fairly new but expect to see more in future years.You might talk to your local insurance agent about any auto insurance discounts that might be available for car safety technologies.

This short clip from CNET talks about how such systems work and what to look for if you are shopping for a car with this technology.