As I’ve noted in prior blogs, there’s all manner of fraud abroad in the land.* True crime fans and writers might want to bone up on car repair fraud. Most of us lucky enough to own vehicles have experienced such fraud. Thus many readers can relate to it.
And car repair fraud sometimes has a “wow” factor that writers strive for. Car repair fraud can even be elegant in its simplicity as the video below shows. A trend in writing true-crime stories is to make criminals so clever and resourceful that readers root for their success.
A nod to white-collar crime.
Incidentally, white collar crime is another type of fraud that writers often explore. I’m no exception since I probe “white privilege” here and in my forthcoming book, Privileged Killers.
While white- (including female pink-) collar work is indoors and often “skilled,” car repair fraud is more likely semi-skilled or unskilled. White people often have the privilege to work indoors and hence commit more white- collar crimes than do semi-skilled blue collar workers (e.g., mechanics).
Fraud Squad for car repair fraud.
Auto repair complaints make up the largest group of consumer grievances. Many of these involve car repair fraud. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that consumers lose 10’s of billions of dollars each year due to faulty or unnecessary car repairs. While most repair shops are honest, undercover car repair stings find car repair fraud and dishonest auto mechanics in most areas of the U.S.
Below are some of the most common auto repair fraud schemes.
This is one of the oldest kinds of car repair fraud. “Highway bandits” own, or work for service stations. They prey on motorists who make pit stops.
They use various tactics – spraying oil or dripping it under a vehicle and claiming it leaked from the traveler’s car. They puncture tires, cut water hoses, damage fan belts. All so that motorists will have to buy new ones.
These bandits tell motorists they face certain danger if they drive off without making the repairs. They invariably charge inflated prices.
Intentional faking of needed repairs.
View the 14 second video below to see how easily an unethical mechanic can commit car repair fraud. Be sure your your audio is on.
Modern vehicles are complex and highly technical. The average person has no idea how to repair or maintain their own vehicle. And so it’s hard for vehicle owners to make decisions about whether repairs are needed.
Part replacement fraud
“A lot of dishonest mechanics have charged customers for parts that weren’t used. In addition, the mechanic will charge you for the labor required to install the non-existent replacement. It’s a double rip-off!
The old used part switcheroo is another common car part related scam. Used parts are a viable option for many repairs, however, some mechanics charge customers for new, premium parts after installing sub-standard or used car parts. Always ask for your old, damaged part back after it’s been replaced. It helps keep your mechanic honest.
Counterfeit Car Parts
To save money, some unscrupulous repair shop owners cut costs by using counterfeit car parts instead of high-quality replacement parts. The difference in price can be significant but you won’t see any of the savings. You’ll be billed the full price for the parts and won’t be told.
This practice can actually put you in danger because counterfeit auto parts are often of inferior quality. This can put you and your family at risk and you may never even know it. Besides being potentially unsafe, counterfeit parts generally wear out sooner than genuine parts…”
Here are some other scams described by the same experts. Scams, by the way are defined as a fraudulent or deceptive acts or operations. Fraud is similar, criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
Bait and Switch Repair Scams
Many auto scams begin with an advertised price on a specific [task, say, a tune-up] that seems almost too good to be true. Once they have your car in the shop, they find other items that need repair as a way to expand the work order and inflate your invoice…
A [tune-up] can mushroom to almost $2,000 so fast it isn’t funny. Your mechanic will find so many things wrong with your vehicle that you’d think it’s beyond repair. This would be a great time to get a second opinion before authorizing repairs.
Repair Estimate Scams
Consumers who don’t get written repair estimates can suffer the consequences when they pick up their cars. This problem occurs when a shop provides a very reasonable quote when the car is dropped off, but at the end of the day, the consumer finds that the shop has raised the final bill considerably from the verbal quote.
This may seem to be perfectly legal; since many mechanics find additional problems with a vehicle once work begins. Shop owners and mechanics have been known to leave the estimated amounts blank when they ask customers to sign repair authorizations. Later on they fill in an inflated amount or descriptions of problems after the consumer leaves the premises.”
Let me hear from you.
Your feedback is important. Let my readers and me know your experiences.
- have been ripped off by car repair fraud
- did you know right away, or was it so subtle (or complex) that it took a while?
- did you complain to anyone, sue in small claims court or elsewhere?
Thanks for sharing.
A partial list, and links to more info. If you’d like a blog on a particular kind of fraud, let me know.