Staged Vehicle Accidents Top Fraud Trend in South Carolina

The NIBC found the state has significantly higher questionable vehicle-related insurance claims compared to other states with similar populations.

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A new report on South Carolina fraud trends shows staged vehicle accidents as the top fraud issue in the state. The analysis, released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), ranks South Carolina 13th in the nation in terms of questionable vehicle-related insurance claims---significantly higher than states with similar populations, such as Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana.

“Staged vehicle accidents are one of the most significant fraud issues facing South Carolina,” said Eric De Campos, director of strategy, policy and government affairs for the NIBC. “The impact on residents includes both a financial cost and a safety risk. Residents are not only faced with the costs from the damage done to their vehicles, but also risk serious injury and possible death as a result of vehicle accidents deliberately caused by fraudsters.”

Various tactics are often used to commit these crimes. For example, criminals may use fraudulent information, such as inflated medical billing, in the aftermath of a staged accident in order to influence settlements from insurers during mediation. Staged accident rings with complicit passengers involved in the conspiracy may visit multiple health clinics and often receive a myriad of treatments for alleged soft tissue injuries that cannot be verified through medical imaging. These fraudulent injuries and medical services aim to inflate the insurance claim and thereby further enrich the conspirators.

Recognizing staged vehicle accidents as a significant fraud trend in South Carolina, NICB conducted an analysis of questionable vehicle-related insurance claims by city spanning from 2020 through 2022. NICB’s analysis identified the city of Columbia with the largest number of claims in South Carolina, accounting for 13% of the state’s total. Columbia is followed by Greenville with 5% and Florence with 4%. North Charleston and the city of Sumter both recorded 3% of claims from 2020 through 2022. 

An analysis of questionable claims by county was also conducted and showed that Richland County ranked above all other counties in South Carolina with almost 15% of claims, followed by Charleston County and Greenville County with 7% each.

“In order to combat this fraud, it is essential to provide the South Carolina Insurance Fraud Division and State Department of Insurance access to the critical resources needed to more effectively deter fraudsters,” De Campos said. “This can include raising minimum criminal penalties for insurance fraud.”

NICB provides assistance to review and investigate fraud cases to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), which investigates a yearly average of 2,650 questionable claims filed in the state.

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