The phone rings. You answer. There’s a brief moment of silence and a soft click. Then the message starts. It’s the same one you’ve been hearing almost daily for the past few months. “Hello. I’m calling today with important news. Your car’s warranty is about to expire…”
Chances are if you own a vehicle and a phone, this call sounds all too familiar. Although car warranty scams have been around for years, they’ve ramped across the country. The calls are so frequent, they’ve spawned memes and jokes on Twitter. Two Twitter users quipped:
“There are three guarantees in life: Death, Taxes, and this being the final notice about your car’s extended warranty.
“I’m getting really close to buying an extended warranty for my car, just so these people will stop calling!”
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), auto warranty robocalls were the top call complaint filed by consumers in 2020. The bad news is that the median loss per victim last year was $700.00. The good news about car warranty scams is that fewer people are being duped.
How Does the Scam Work?
The auto warranty scams are made to sound like they are coming from a car dealership or a reputable company. The callers might have the year, make, and model of your vehicle. They might even be selling a real product: an expensive service contract that covers little and is nearly impossible to collect. If you take the bait and buy a plan, you might not realize it’s a scam until too late—when you have a problem with your car and find out the warranty doesn’t exist. Another goal of the scam is to steal your identity. During the call, you may be instructed to press a number or to stay on the line. If you do, you’re often asked to provide personal information, which can potentially be used to defraud you.
What Can You Do?
One of the best ways to not fall victim to scams is to educate yourself about them. There are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself—from both scam phone calls and text messages:
- Hang up immediately. It’s the most effective way to deal with the calls.
- Don’t press any buttons. It’s tempting to press a button and ask to speak to a customer service representative. Your goal is to get them to take you off of their call list. Don’t do it though. They don’t take you off the list. It also confirms it’s a live line, a working number. You’ll get even more phone calls.
- Protect your personal information. Don’t hand over details, such as your Social Security Number, credit card information, driver’s license number, or bank account information.
- Double check. If you think you might be talking to someone from your dealership, hang up. Then call the phone number you verify on the dealership’s website.
- Screen incoming phone calls. If you’re not sure, don’t answer. If it’s important, they will leave a message and you can investigate before calling them back. Be cautious. Scammers are good at making phone numbers look like they’re calling from a trusted company.
SDC, as a forensic accounting firm, has helped investigate numerous losses due to fraudulent impersonation. Knowing about scams is the first step to avoid falling victim to them. Skepticism and caution can go a long way toward mitigating and preventing losses before they occur.