LOS ANGELES (CNS) - State and local law enforcement officials today warned motorists to be alert for staged collisions that target unaware drivers in an effort to defraud insurance companies.
``Los Angeles County has the dubious distinction of being the state's epicenter for auto insurance fraud,'' District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. ``The impact of that fraud on working families in Los Angeles County is real and substantial.''
Lacey and state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones took part in a news conference to highlight to problem of staged collisions, with police providing a demonstration of how the fraud is carried out. The most common, officials said, was known as a ``swoop-and-squat,'' in which the drivers of two other vehicles work together to box in an unsuspecting motorist and force a collision, often with the lead vehicle braking suddenly.
Participants in such operations are often connected with organized crime and generally target luxury or government-owned vehicles, since they are most likely to be insured, authorities said.
According to the state Department of Insurance, Los Angeles County accounts for nearly 43 percent of all auto-related insurance fraud in California.
Jones said his office is working to crack down on fraud, saying the department helped prevent $143 million in auto-insurance fraud claims last year.
Anyone who believes they may have been the victim of insurance fraud was urged to contact the state at (800) 927-4357 or online at www.insurance.ca.gov.