How Ambulance Chasers Get Your Info

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(Memphis) A banged up car was just the start of Rick McCracken's troubles after another driver ran into him at 240 near Sam Cooper.

No one was hurt, but you wouldn't know it by the phone calls he started getting the next day.

"They really wanted me to go in to get checked out so they could find something wrong with me," said McCracken. "To call people and try to persuade them to come in and file fake claims. It just doesn't seem right."

A few weeks ago, a photographer and I were in a news vehicle when we were hit by another driver.

No injuries, but plenty of phone calls.

"I am a supervisor with MAIC, the Memphis Accident Information Center," said the person on the phone.

It sounded very official .

"The Department of Public Safety forwarded me over your information to follow up with you," said the caller.

A second caller said, "My name is Stewart, April. I am trying to get with you about the accident that you had. Because they are supposed to be paying you for personal injury, April."

Attorney Brian Faughnan chairs the Tennessee Bar Association Ethics Committee. He's heard the calls before and listened to ours.

"It certainly sounds sketchy," says Faughnan.

He says most people assume the callers are lawyers, but it's against ethics laws for lawyers and the people who work for them to make these calls.

"A lawyer hires someone who is not a lawyer to go pull this information and go and approach people who have been in an accident and try to sign them up for that lawyer, the lawyer is gonna be on the hook for that," says Faughnan.

The callers do represent people hoping to make money off you.

There are no rules against chiropractors making calls or hiring people to do so, telling you to go to the doctor. They may sound like they are on your side.

"Be very, very careful. Your accident has been released to the public. You will start to receive a tremendous amount of phone calls today," said one caller. "All these people contacting you are trying to make money off of you. Be very careful. I need you to contact me as soon as possible."

They get your information, right at the police department's Central Records.

"We print copies of all the reports the day before so they can receive those copies the next day," says a Central Records worker.

It's open records law, the same that allows the media access to reports.

In this case, the people taking a look aren't reporters.

"They solicit. They are called public marketers," says the Central Records worker.

She told us to come back any morning around 8 to see for ourselves.

When we showed up, those viewing the reports started to scatter, telling us we better not show their faces on camera. They even tried to lock us out.

"Y'all need to stop coming down here," said one upset woman who was going through the police accident reports.

They are getting access to your personal information, but don't want you to know who they are .

"Don't make no sense. Find y'all something else to do," the upset woman told us.

One person looking at the reports agreed to talk with us, saying she's been picking up accident reports for a few months.

The free reports stack up like a phone book.

"I am pretty much looking for the person at fault, the person who had the insurance. They looking mostly for Hispanics, African-Americans, sometimes Caucasians, sometimes," she said.

She can't tell us who she works for, or who she is calling your information in to, because she doesn't know.

"I call it into a company I work for down in Florida," she says.

She is paid about $30 per day for an hour or so of work, and that money is deposited right into her bank account.

"I just give out the information to the company and the company does the rest," she says.

It's apparently perfectly legal.

We tried to call one of the companies that hires these folks.

No one answered the phone, but they, whoever they are, and the random people they pay, know your name, where your live, your phone number and whatever other information you give police.

That makes it easy for accident victims to become victimized all over again.

"They have 30 to 50 percent of the info they need right there to steal your identity already, right there from the police report," says accident victim Rick McCracken.

There is a way for you to opt out and not have these people be able to view your information. To do so, call the Do Not Call List at 888-382-1222.

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