If you drive a car and own a phone, you’ve likely been targeted by this scam once or twice – or maybe even a thousand times. It’s the scam that tips the scale on robocalls and takes them from “mild inconvenience” to “royal pain in the neck”. But auto warranty scams are more than just a hopeless nuisance – they can spell financial disaster to the unwary consumer. Here’s what you need to know about these exasperating scams and how to stay safe.
How the scams play out
In an auto warranty scam, a scammer reaches out to a target, offering to sell or extend the warranty policy on their car. The scammer will claim to represent the automaker or policy company, and may even spoof their number so it appears as if they are legitimate. To make the offer seem even more authentic, the caller will know the exact model and make of the target’s car. Unfortunately, though, if the driver agrees to buy or extend a warranty policy on their car through this call, they’ll be sharing their money and information with a scammer.
Watch out for these red flags that can signify a possible scam:
- Just another robocall. When the pitch to buy a new auto warranty, or to extend an existing one, starts with an automatic message, you can be sure you’re dealing with a scammer.
- Extend your warranty now! Pressured to buy an extended warranty for your vehicle? You’re likely being targeted by a scammer.
- Care for some ad-bombing? If you keep running into the same ad on every site and social media platform you visit, you can be sure it’s no accident. Scammers repeatedly target victims with the same ad. If you suspect an overly intrusive ad is the work of a scammer, be sure to ignore it whenever you see it.
- Plus shipping and handling. If the alleged representative selling the extended auto warranty starts asking you to pay a processing fee (even a small one), or even a downpayment, before providing any real details about the warranty, hang up. Scammers notoriously collect non-refundable payments before their targets recognize the scam.
- Restricted callers only. Legitimate telemarketers are required by law to display their phone number and/or the number of the company they represent when they call a prospect. If your Caller ID is showing “private number” or “restricted”, you are likely being called by a scammer.
Due to their prevalence and sophistication, auto warranty scams can be difficult to spot. Follow these rules to keep yourself safe.
First, never share personal information, such as a Social Security number, checking account information and the like with an unverified contact no matter the platform. Next, if you’d like to purchase a new policy or extend the one you have, reach out to an auto warranty company on your own instead of waiting for a phone call or message offering to sell you a policy. Finally, if you are constantly getting ad-bombed and robocalled by illegitimate messages, mark the email as spam, delete all messages and block the number from calling you again.
If you’ve been targeted
If you believe you’ve been victimized by an auto warranty scam, take immediate steps to mitigate the damage. Do not engage further with the scammer and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov. You can also alert the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the FCC complaint center. Finally, close any accounts that may have been compromised and consider a credit freeze, if warranted.
Auto warranty scams can be so much more than a super-annoying phone call that breaks up your Netflix binge. Use the tips outlined here to learn how to recognize these scams and keep yourself from falling victim. Stay safe!