When you take your car to a repair shop, many people just assume that the repair operators/owners are looking out for your best interest; but what you may not know or want to hear, is many of them are out for their OWN interest! Unfortunately, this sort of dishonesty is becoming more prevalent which is only adding to the U.S. insurance fraud issue. Scam alert…there are many types of auto scams involving collision, towing, and repairs, so beware and watch out.
Common Auto Scams Involving Collision, Towing, and Repairs to Avoid
If you need repairs to your vehicle, need a tow truck, or have been involved in a car accident, you need to look out for common auto scams like these:
Glass repair fraud is common so be extremely wary of someone who randomly shows up to do an inspection on your car windshield. This could be a sign of a potential fraud scam. If you are faced with an unsolicited person wanting to give you an estimate you should do the following:
- Don’t commit to anything
- Express the need for a second estimate
- Get everything in writing
- Ask for references
- Document their license plate and the driver’s license number
- Never sign a blank contract
Over-exaggerated Damage Estimates
By exaggerating estimates to auto repairs and parts, dishonest shop owners can make a profit. Shady shops will outline labor and parts that will never be performed in an effort to make an extra buck. If you need repairs done to your car, it is recommended you get three estimates from reputable body shops.
Fraudulent repair shops often use stolen and previously deployed airbags to replace your deployed airbag. So, if your airbag has deployed, don’t just assume a new one will be installed by the auto repair shop. In fact, air bags have become targets for thieves who sell them on the black market for a much-reduced price. While the retail cost for a new air bag runs about $1000, the imitation one can be purchased for much less on the black market. If you fall for this type of scam, you may end up with an airbag that won’t inflate when you need it most or could even catch fire when inflated. Furthermore, these unscrupulous shop owners will even falsify the records for insurance companies to “pad” the insurance claim amount.
To avoid being the victim of air bag scams, the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) recommends you do the following:
- If your airbag has deployed or been stolen, contact your insurance company immediately
- Only use reputable body shops who hire ASE-certified mechanics
- Ask to see the invoice for the airbag and make sure it was ordered from a reputable manufacturer or dealer
- Ask to see the new airbag before it is installed
Unsolicited Tow Trucks
Be guarded if a tow truck driver you did not call arrives at the scene of an accident and wants to transport your car to an auto shop. If your car is stranded and you need a tow truck immediately, don’t fall prey to someone who just shows up. These ghost tow truck drivers often charge inflated costs to transport cars to irreputable repair facilities and then try to refer you to dishonest medical providers and attorneys who concentrate on insurance fraud scams.
Many corrupt repair shops serve as a front for individuals or crime rings that disassemble stolen vehicles and sell them for parts to untrustworthy repair facilities.
“Burying” the Deductible
Ruthless collision repair shops may suggest to “bury the deductible” or hide the cost within the estimate for repairs so the insurance company ends up paying the deductible.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Choose a repair facility that is clean and efficient
- Use reputable auto repair shops that employ ASE-certified (Automotive Service Excellence) auto technicians
- Request a written warranty for work done and parts installed
- Ask your family, friends, or insurance company for shop recommendations
- Choose a repair shop that uses a written damage report versus a written estimate of cost/price to repair. A damage report is a much more informative and will provide more information than just an estimate
Any time you feel like you have been approached by someone suspicious or who encourages you to devise a claim that doesn’t seem factual, contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) by phone at 800-835-6422 or submit a form on www.nicb.org
If you have any questions regarding insurance auto scams involving collision, towing and repair, contact us immediately at 866-869-3335 and we will be able to assist you with all your insurance concerns