Fake traffic accidents

In China, many cars have installed a camera that records what happens in front of the vehicle during the time since the car is started until it is turned off.

This trend started a couple of years ago. Why did it start? Is it to have some proof in case of accidents, so insurance companies don’t have any excuse to not pay? Or is it so the guilty part in an accident doesn’t try to manipulate the truth? In part, yes, but there is also another reason which is quite dark and shameful… the fake accidents!

Fake accidents usually happen between a pedestrian or a biker and a car. The pedestrian/biker hits the car on purpose, starts crying in pain (real or not) and demands money from the car driver to go to the hospital. This might sound strange, but it is a relatively common event in China. There is no social security here, like we have in Europe, and every time you go to the hospital you have to pay from your own pocket. The “fake accident scam” works in most cases because the car driver (the victim) will most probably be very nervous, will not want to waste all day waiting for the police to arrive and make a decision, and will not want to spend all day accompanying the supposedly run over person to the hospital. Giving him/her the demanded money and getting out of there seems like the best option.

In China this scam is called 碰瓷 pengci, which literally means “crashing ceramics”. It is called with this rather curious name because in its origins (which, according to Baidu, are in the Qing dynasty), the pedestrian who crashed into a vehicle (in those times, it must have been a rickshaw!) would be carrying a vase in his hands. The vase would break in the fall and the scammer would then say that that vase was a very expensive relic from such and such dynasty and demand compensation accordingly.

Nowadays the scam has evolved and the scammer directly jumps on top of the car or lies down in front of it, without even touching it, when the car is stopped, and then starts screaming of (fake) pain. Every few months the news report some new especially stupid try, like one scammer that, seeing that the driver was not even reacting at his fall, grabbed the windshield wipers of the car and threatened to pull them out if the driver didn’t give him 500 RMB. There was also a very famous case in Beijing in which a foreigner run over a middle-aged lady (well, it was not clear if he had really run her over or if she was pretending), she asked him for money, he refused, she grabbed at his clothes and didn’t let him go until the police came. Then the police found out he was working illegally and he was expelled from China.

Chinese people have a good sense of humour and many of them make jokes with this scam now. Check this video where you can see a ranking with the 10 funniest scam attempts (if you understand Chinese, the host’s comments are hilarious!). By the way, this scam not only happens in China, as some of the cases in that video happened in Hong Kong and South Korea, and I have seen others from Taiwan.

So, if you drive in China… be aware of this scam! It seems the probability is higher if you drive an expensive car: the scammers will head for you because they think they’ll get more money! If this happened to me I’m not really sure how I would react… maybe I would have a fit of rage and start kicking the scammer, so at least he had some real pain to scream about!