Staged car crashes teach police how to identify insurance fraud

GLENDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- An insurance agency held a staged car crash event to help police identify signs of fraud Thursday. Experts say, auto insurance fraud costs Californians an estimated $15 billion each year.

"We like to show the difference between a real collision and a staged one," said Dan Bales, national director of special investigations for Mercury Insurance.

The agency sponsored the insurance fraud event, which displayed several crashes of different magnitudes so that insurance investigators and adjusters can learn how to spot the most common signs of fraud.

Glendale police officers also took part in the lesson. Insurance investigators said police officers are usually the first ones to the scene of an accident and have the best chance to find clues that fraud may be involved.

"You can see little damage and yet they're reporting a significant amount of physical damage to the car or the individual," Sgt. Craig Tweedy said.

A demonstration of crashes aren't just for the benefit of the insurance industry. Experts said insurance fraud is costing customers hundreds of dollars each year.

"In California the average consumer pays $400 to $700 a year to cover insurance fraud," Bales said.

Those costs are added onto insurance premiums, courtesy of fraudsters looking for easy money. This is why insurance experts are taking aim at scammers.

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