No, you’re not encountering angels on the roads. The recent spate of ‘claims specialists’ showing up at accidents is simply shady characters out to make a quick buck. Here’s what you should do when encountering these parties.
Never let it be said that Singaporeans lack the drive for ‘entrepreneurship’.
Apparently, the latest trend in skimming a living off other people is to trawl the roads for traffic accidents. Once an incident is spotted, these enterprising individuals swoop in on the unsuspecting victim.
Their aim is to take advantage of your annoyance, shock and confusion to push you to send your damaged vehicle for repairs to the workshop they ‘represent’.
They do this under the guise of settling your insurance claims for you; some even go to the extent of offering you a cash sum on the spot to let them ‘take over your case’.
What’s really going on, and how should you react?
A tout by any other name…
It’s the oldest trick in the book.
Calling themselves ‘insurance claims specialists’, these people try their best to appear to be your best friend and trusted adviser during your time of crisis.
But in reality, they are ‘specialists’ in the same way I’m secretly Batman; they are simply there to profit off your misery.
What’s really going on is this: By getting you to send your damaged vehicle to the workshop they so enthusiastically recommend, they can earn a fee.
And quite a lucrative one at that. Reports indicate that each case referred can earn them several thousand dollars at a go. So all they have to do is to bring in two or three cases a week, and they’d be earning even more than your regular CEO.
Shenanigans under the hood
How can these workshops afford to pay these so-called 'specialists' so much? And why?
The answer to the first part is, of course, by overcharging your insurance company. Repair costs are jacked way up, or expensive, authentic parts are swapped out for lower-cost replacements, but still invoiced at the original charges.
These shady practices can inflate your insurance claims - by as much as four times in some cases.
As for why? Profits - no matter how ill gotten. By doing this, the workshop benefits from a much larger payout from your insurer - this can be done because most car insurance policies allow you to claim up to the market value of your vehicle.
Even after paying those oily salesmen who referred you in the first place, these dishonest workshops still walk away with a larger profit than they would have managed otherwise.
No harm, no foul? Think again!
Okay, but so what? You, the driver, aren’t the one ultimately footing the bill. And your vehicle still receives the repairs it needs.
With these 'claims specialists' handling your insurance claims for you at no extra charge, isn’t it actually a good thing? Could these not simply be cases of well-meaning, if overly-enthusiastic, drivers looking to help a fellow driver out?
Well, think about it this way.
Firstly, are you really okay with putting your vehicle in the hands of someone you just met mere minutes ago?
Secondly, knowing that there are gangs like these roving the roads, how can you be sure that if you do get rear-ended, it’s purely an accident. How do you know it’s not an orchestrated event aimed at drumming up business on a slow day?
Besides, what these 'specialists' are doing aren't as above board as they may believe. Touting is illegal in Singapore, and you’d best believe the police are already conducting investigations. We’d be surprised if charges aren’t filed.
When making a living depends on actively seeking out car accidents, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your life.
Your claims may be denied
Here’s the most crucial bit: Letting these road-cruising vultures take over after an accident isn’t as harmless as you think. In the worst-case scenario, your claims may even be denied.
According to Victor Chen, Insurance Product Specialist from the SingSaver insurance team, "Drivers could potentially lose their insurance benefits because most of the insurers have a clause in their policy to exclude claims found to be fraudulent, deliberately exaggerated or supported by false declarations. In such cases, insurers have every right to cancel the driver’s policy."
What is the consequence should this happen (besides paying the entire workshop bill out-of-pocket, eating the inflated prices, and having to accept cheaper, not-original parts)? "You will encounter difficulty in applying for new motor insurance. Insurers often will have the driver declare if they had their motor insurance terminated or declined before. If answered ‘yes’, the chances of the application getting rejected is high," says Victor.
"If your claims are rejected or policy voided, the only right thing to do is pay off the repairs out of your own pocket and appeal to the insurer to continue the policy," he adds.
Yikes! Sounds like giving into these ‘claims specialists’ aren’t worth it!
What you should do when confronted by these 'claims specialists'
So, despite your best efforts, you get into an accident on the road. You now find yourself suddenly beset by so many helpful new 'friends'.
Here’s what you should do.
- Stay calm and take a moment to gather yourself.
- Call your insurance provider for assistance and advice. Most insurers will have a 24-hour emergency hotline. It is a good idea to keep your insurance documents in your vehicle, or at least the emergency helpline number.
- Do not engage with anyone else other than the other driver. Remember to take pictures of the damages on your own vehicle and the other vehicle.
- Call the police if you are feeling harassed or threatened.
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