You’ve owned your car for a little while, then one day you get a phone call, letter or maybe an email from “Warranty Registration Department” or “Vehicle Protection Headquarters” saying the warranty on your vehicle is about to expire. You thought you still had plenty of time remaining on the original warranty but weren’t quite sure. Thinking it’s better to be safe than sorry, you click on the “reply” email link or “Push 1 to speak with a representative.” After all, you have a big trip coming up. Heaven forbid having car trouble and big expenses.
Once you’ve clicked, dialed or pushed “1 to speak to a representative,” you have probably entered the nefarious world of bogus or highly questionable extended auto warranties.
At the Better Business Bureau, we have recently seen an uptick in these extended warranty calls. Warranty scammers utilize all kinds of methods to get you to give them your hard-earned money. They often try to impress you with knowledge about the make, model and year of your car, which is information they can buy from websites. You may have even provided this information if you shopped for auto insurance online.
They may tell you the deal is only good for one day and then say you can cancel it at any time. We even had one lady say the scam caller said that the sheriff would be called because her warranty expired! Another person told us they had received an email that looked very official, exactly like it came from the manufacturer of their car. The scammers will often contact you several times, bordering on harassment.
To be clear, what these scammers want you to purchase is not a warranty but a service contract, which is basically a form of insurance. Legitimate auto dealers can also sell service contracts, and industry experts agree that a factory-backed service contract is best.
Here are some tips to help you avoid taking a turn onto a scammer’s “Misery Lane.”
1. First check to make sure your warranty truly is about to expire. Look through your paperwork, and if you can’t find it, contact your dealer or manufacturer. Don’t trust information from an unsolicited phone call, letter or email.
2. Don’t fall for high-pressure techniques. If pressured, simply hang up on them. It’s not rude. You’re not obligated to do business with anyone. If they call back, ask to be placed on their “Do Not Contact” list or for a phone number to request they stop calling you. Legitimate companies are required to give you that number.
3. Before you do business with anyone offering an extended warranty service contract, research the seller as well as the company administrator responsible for paying claims. Check with the BBB or the state attorney general’s office about complaints.
4. If possible, stick with the manufacturer’s extended warranty coverage. After all, you trusted them enough to buy a car from them.
5. Don’t sign anything until you have carefully read and know exactly what is and isn’t covered in the service contract. Many scam victims found it difficult to cancel their coverage and get a refund. If this occurs, talk with an attorney. You may possibly be able to sue to recover the money you spent.
6. Never, ever share personal information, such as credit card information, driver’s license number or your Social Security number, with someone who’s called you over the phone.
Some service contracts can total into the thousands of dollars and be virtually useless when your car breaks down. If you follow these tips, you’ll still have the money you didn’t spend on a bogus “extended warranty” to pay a mechanic.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.