When your auto needs repairs or body work done, you may expect honesty, credibility, and superior work performance by the auto repair technicians and shop owners, but is that expecting too much? The U.S. has a serious insurance fraud problem and unfortunately, due to some unscrupulous owners of many repair shops, the issue continues to grow. However, the next time you need to have work done on your car, be on the lookout for repair, collision, and towing scams that are flooding our nation.
If you own a vehicle, chances are at some point your car will require some sort of service or repair. Taking your car to a body shop doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to look for in the scam department. Below are some common scam tactics to be on the alert for the next time your car requires attention.
Padding Repair Estimates- Dishonest shop owners know how to make a profit and one of their scams is by inflating the repair estimates. They typically will overestimate the labor, increase parts costs, or add work that the car doesn’t even need. If your car needs repairs, always get at least two (preferably three) estimates from respectable auto shops to make sure the work estimated is legitimate.
Glass Fraud- Beware of any glass repair salesperson who shows up out of the blue to write up an estimate to repair/replace your car windshield. This could be a sign of a potential glass fraud. If you find yourself in this type of scenario, do the following:
- Get another estimate
- Never sign a blank contract because the salesperson can later add things to which you didn’t agree
- Get everything in writing
- Ask for references
- Don’t commit to anything!
Ghost Tow Trucks– Imagine heading to your destination when your car breaks down on the side of the road. You contact a towing company, and the estimated wait time is about 20 minutes. Suddenly out of nowhere a tow truck shows up and you consider yourself lucky they arrived that quickly. If this happens, don’t fall for the potential scam! These unsolicited tow truck drivers are on the lookout for people stranded and then charge inflated costs to tow and sometimes can hold your car hostage unless you pay the amount requested. They are often in cahoots with other corrupt repair facilities.
Chop Shops- A chop shop is typically a shady body shop that illegally attains stolen vehicles and then sells the parts as a way to make a profit. The business is usually a front for crime rings and works with other dishonest repair places when selling the parts.
Airbag Scam- Airbag fraud is a popular scam used in repair shops run by underhanded people. So, if your car is in need of a new airbag, pay attention. You may think your airbag is replaced with a new one because that’s what is written on the estimate, but how do you know? Air bags have become targets for criminals to steal and then turn around and sell on the black market for a much cheaper cost. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with an already deployed or faulty airbag that when needed, won’t even deploy or could catch fire when inflated for the retail price of about $1000. Black market air bags can be purchased for as little as $50.
To avoid falling victim to air bag scams, the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) suggests you do the following:
- If your airbag has deployed or been stolen, immediately communicate with your local Alabama independent insurance agent
- Only use respectable body shops with ASE-certified mechanics
- Request the airbag invoice to ensure it was ordered from a reputable dealer and manufacturer
- Request to see the new airbag before it is installed in your auto
You Can Protect Yourself Against Scams Involving Repair, Collision, and Towing
If, at any point in time, you feel suspicious of a transaction or interaction with anyone regarding the service to your car, it is recommended you contact the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) at 800-835-6422 or file a report on www.nicb.org