EXTENDED WARRANTY SCAMMERS TARGET SENIOR CITIZENS
Consumers in the Upstate have recently been inundated with requests by telephone and mail to buy un-needed extended automobile warranties, say some car dealers.
Jennifer Duncan, business manager of Leader Ford in Seneca, SC said, “Our customers have brought to my attention that they have been harassed and annoyed by auto warranty phone calls from people who did not adequately identify themselves, exerted heavy pressure to buy warranty contracts and used scare tactics to entice customers into extended warranties that they did not need.”
Duncan is in the process of notifying her customers of the practice and warning them to beware of con artists. She said there is a big difference between original manufacturer’s warranties, dealership extended warranties and the fly-by-night extended warranties offered by some sellers.
“One older gentleman had been frightened to the extent that he gave out his personal information to the scammers, who then set-up a pre-authorized debit from his checking account to bill him monthly for an extended warranty. He had been told that his warranty was about to expire and he would be responsible for all repairs himself. This was not true. His vehicle was fairly new and was still under the manufacture’s warranty at the time.”
Vin Ridgeway, business manager at Clinkscale’s Chevrolet in Belton, SC said, “When times get tough it seems to bring out the scam artists. The presentation some of these individuals can give is very convincing. Some even misrepresent themselves as the manufacturer or the dealership. My advice to consumers is to verify everything. Ask who is the underwriter of these extended warranty programs? With our dealership it is the manufacturer or our authorized agent. With some of the independent warranties there is not really anyone backing up the warranty. It is all paper. If there is ever any doubt who you are dealing with, call the dealership you bought the car from and ask if it is their extended warranty program.”
Individuals selling questionable extended warranties find it easy to get the names, addresses and phone numbers from state transaction and tax records.
“It is public information and they can tap into it without any difficulty,” said Ridgeway.
An internet search of “auto extended warranty scams” reveals that the problem is rampant and seems to be centered around St Louis, MO. Missouri attorney general Jay Nixon announced earlier this year that he filed lawsuits against numerous companies that he says mislead or pressured car owners across the country into buying extended warranties that they did not need.
The St Louis based companies sent out official looking postcards with captions such as “Final Notice of Interruption” and “Important Dated Material Concerning Your Warranty” that appear to be from the dealership or the manufacturer. These are sometimes followed-up with phone calls or emails advising that warranties will expire unless high-cost extensions are purchased immediately. Caveat emptor, buyer beware, is the best policy when faced with any high pressure sales tactics, say the experts.
South Carolina attorney general Henry McMaster’s office has set-up a toll free number especially for reporting fraud aimed at seniors. Call Fraud Protection For Seniors at 888-878-3256 to report suspicious phone calls and mailings.
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-922-1594 is another agency that can help with consumer fraud and offer advice to anyone who has been scammed.
Vince Jackson, reporting from Anderson, SC
If you have been victimized by an extended warranty scam please post a comment. vj