A new kind of fraud has arisen on the highways and streets of Turkey, where roughly 5,000 people are killed in traffic accidents every year. In the last three years, a new breed of profiteers called “kaza çantacıları” (accident baggers) has begun to trail the families of victims to hospitals, hoping to lay their hands on the compulsory traffic insurance compensation they are entitled to.
Traffic accident victims are entitled to a maximum of 225,000 Turkish Liras in compensation. The figure varies based on criteria such as the victim’s or survivor’s income, education level, number of dependents, and treatment costs. The total compensation granted for traffic accident victims amounted to 157 million liras last year.
This is how they do it: Profiteers follow television reports, local newspapers and websites for news of traffic accidents. They show up at the hospital where the accident victims are taken. They attend funerals and become friendly with the families of victims to win their confidence. Then they approach members of the family, saying that they can help the victims or their relatives obtain compensation.
Most people are unaware of their rights regarding compulsory traffic insurance, which plays into the hands of these profiteers, as does a difficult-to-navigate bureaucracy surrounding such payments. Victims or their families are often
convinced to give the “kaza çantacı” a power of attorney to act on their behalf, and he simply deposits the compensation money into his own bank account. Some will return 50 percent of the compensation to its rightful owners, but in most cases they vanish with all the money.
A few legitimate firms do exist that will carry out the bureaucratic procedures involved in obtaining traffic accident compensation, charging at most a 20 percent commission. Insurance and advisory firms have filed a complaint about the practices of the “kaza çantacıları” with the government, and now the Undersecretariat of the Treasury is working on a regulation to prevent traffic accident compensation fraud.