If you've seen a spike in your automobile insurance rates, don't just blame the insurance company. Fraudulent New Jerseyans have contributed as well. In fact, you could be a culprit.

According to the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance(DOBI), drivers knowingly and unknowingly commit a violation of the Insurance Fraud Act by lying on insurance forms or omitting certain information.

Assistant DOBI Commissioner Joseph Brennan said about fraudulent drivers, "The vast majority of them are people not disclosing other drivers in the household, or not disclosing the real location of where a car is garaged or operated."

Most times, the falsities are an attempt to achieve lower rates.

Brennan said insurance fraud affects everyone.

"The small number of people who commit the fraud are costing all of us money out of our pocket in the form of higher premiums and costs," he said.

Insurance companies' recouped losses are achieved through higher premiums and rates for all drivers.

The driver committing the fraud can also deal with serious consequences, including denial of coverage and loss of license.

"Always be forthcoming about your driving record to your insurance company," said Acting DOBI Commissioner Ken Kobylowski. "It is better to pay a bit more for your policy now than to be denied coverage or dropped from coverage altogether when you need it the most."

DOBI also advised drivers to be aware of possible insurance scams if one were to be involved in a vehicle accident.

"There are a number of organized rings operating in New Jersey that will solicit accident victims," said Brennan. The solicitations could come in the form of attorneys, medical providers and advanced settlements.

Brennan continued, "We're cautioning consumers, where possible, visit professions who they know and trust, as opposed to a cold call or a mailing or someone showing up at the door."

Brennan said under state law, accident reports must be made available to anyone who asks for them.

DOBI released these steps to follow after an auto accident, in order to stay clear of fraudsters.

  • Visit professionals you trust. While most doctors and lawyers are honest professionals, there are some who try to profit from consumers' accident-related injuries. Only visit health care providers and attorneys you know and trust.
  • Avoid offers too good to be true. Be wary of any solicitations offering civil settlements or advance payments either by mail or in person.
  • Keep organized records. If you see a physician, it is important to keep careful records of all medical treatments, including the dates, treatments given, and diagnoses. These records must be compared against the statements received in order to make sure the bill wasn't padded or treatments fabricated.
  • Report the accident to the police even if the damage to the cars involved was minor. An accurate accident report is a necessary document when filing a claim with an insurance company.
  • Take photos of the damage if it is safe to do so. Photos should not be taken on busy highways where injuries could occur.
  • Count the number of passengers in the other vehicle. It is important to get all of the names, phone numbers and driver's licenses to prevent more people that were not in the car from filing claims later.