Scam Alert Caution SignWhen Paul and his attorney came into the International Investigators and shared his story, we were not exactly shocked. Like our staff, Paul is well aware of numerous scamming attempts made by criminals. Despite that knowledge, he found himself a victim.

It all began on a congested city street one snowy afternoon around rush hour. Paul was startled by a loud thunk sound. He wondered if kids made his vehicle their target with a snowball filled with rocks, or if perhaps that sound was explained by a chunk of ice melting and falling away from the undercarriage. But then he noticed a female driving an older model car honking and waving in his direction.

She motioned for him to roll his window down and insisted that he had sideswiped her car. When the woman motioned for Paul to pull over in a nearby parking lot, he followed her. But he was not quite convinced that he had actually damaged the woman's car.

Once in the parking lot, she insisted that Paul had knocked the side mirror off the driver's side. As he carefully investigated, Paul found no evidence of the deep blue paint from his vehicle on the woman's white vehicle. The side mirror on the driver's door was indeed missing. But due to some rusted areas, it appeared that the mirror had been missing for some time.

Then the woman complained that because she supposedly swerved to avoid an actual collision with Paul, her neck was injured. That's when Paul decided to get a police report. Smart move, but officers were busy on other calls. It would be an hour wait. So Paul exchanged contact and insurance coverage information with the woman and left.

A week later, the other driver began to harass Paul's insurance agent. With no proof that Paul had actually damaged the woman's vehicle, the agency refused her claim. Then the woman threatened to sue Paul for damages.

The attorney asked for an investigation into the incident and into the woman who was supposedly a victim of Paul’s “reckless” driving.

International Investigators proposed a two-prong approach. First, the vehicle accident investigation. Although Paul had called the police, both parties left the scene before officers arrived and a report was never officially made. Because she claimed she was injured, we wanted to follow it up with a personal injury investigation. Her claim to the insurance company contained several doctor’s visits and time missed from work.

Our investigators were able to get photos of the damage to the car and the rust was evident, and Paul’s car, as he had reported, had no evidence of being in contact with the woman’s navy blue vehicle, or the black composite. But that documentation was not conclusive because several weeks has passed since the accident.

So the next step was an investigation into the woman herself. A background investigation in a situation like this also included a criminal background check as well as a financial investigation. As part of the documentation a 5-year employment background check uncovered she had had four jobs and had recently been released from the last one just three days prior to the event.

Her finances were as unstable, with many closed checking accounts, cancelled credit cards and past due debts. The financial problems tied right into the criminal background search with charges and arrests for passing bad checks, shoplifting and even one incidence of suspected forgery. She was suspected of writing forged checks at one of her jobs. It never got to the point of a forensic examiner or a handwriting analysis expert investigating as she made restitution, resigned and the charges were dropped.

All this was uncovered and the personal injury claims had not even been investigated completely. But the attorney though there was sufficient information to resolve the harassment and the threats. And it was. Once she knew that Paul’s attorney could establish a pattern of deceit, she backed down and gave up.

The incident reminded Paul and International Investigators too, that automobile insurance agencies lose billions each year to individual scammers as well as more organized staged-accident rings. Pay close attention to your surroundings and know how to handle these situations. An attorney and private investigators are your allies.

-T. Wilcox, CEO, International Investigators

-B. McGinley, Director of Operations, International Investigators