It seems common knowledge today that some auto body repair shops have chosen a dishonest way to do business, and fraud has become part of the game with auto body work. There are ways to avoid both insurance fraud schemes and other scams, and the signs are definitely out there to watch for and be aware of in the collision repair racket. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.
Deductibles and Related Maneuvering
Be cautious when auto body shop personnel suggest that your deductible can be waived, buried or recovered. Your deductible could simply be hidden in an over inflated repair estimate, or in shop charges for more expensive original equipment parts that are then substituted with cheaper, damaged, counterfeit or previously repaired parts. You also need to watch out for services not given or parts paid for, but not installed. Inflated costs, switching out of parts, the inclusion of parts or neglect of services are unlawful in many instances.
More can happen when the body shop repairer misrepresents the actual damage and states that a vehicle is more seriously damaged than it actually is. This type of action is hiding repair costs from the insurer and including the deductible within the repair costs. Obviously, the repair costs have been increased and the body shop profits while the insurer is left with paying the manipulated repair costs and the deductible.
Tow Truck Connection
If you’ve been involved in an accident and your vehicle looks to be a serious contender for body work, you want to be cautious when an unsolicited tow truck driver shows up on the scene a little too quickly and attempts to get you and your vehicle to a repair shop right then and there. This is a ploy used by unscrupulous tow truck drivers as they charge outlandish fees for transport, plus they take your vehicle to a dishonest body shop that may hold your vehicle hostage with ever increasing fees and demands for insurance payments. Also, the tow truck driver may make a concerted effort to refer you to unethical health care providers and lawyers who make a living through fraudulent insurance scams.
Believe it or not, this is just one other car repair scam that is both dangerous and expensive for insurers and policy holders. Faulty airbag replacement is really no replacement at all. Once an airbag has been deployed through an accident situation and is brought into a repair facility for replacement, mechanics simply neglect replacing the airbag with a new one and resort to stuffing the vacant airbag compartment with all kinds of junk materials like aluminum cans, packing peanuts and other materials, which will allow the airbag deployment sensors to function.
Another tactic that fraudulent mechanics use is the installation of an already used or stolen airbag. Once installed, the repair shop simply charges full price to the insurance company for a new airbag. There are even crooked shop owners who will attach an already used or deployed airbag to a steering wheel to create the appearance of an already deployed airbag when the one behind the steering column is still in perfectly good shape. This is just another tactic to increase the amount of an insurance claim.
In most instances, you’re not getting a new airbag and any bag that may be a replacement will likely be unusable and unworkable. With the prevalence of this kind of scam, some states have passed laws to protect consumers from faulty airbag replacement. If an airbag has been replaced with a defective one, those responsible could be penalized with prison time and high fines.
Glass Replacement Fraud
Another insurance fraud involves windshield and other vehicle glass replacement on your vehicle. If you are approached out of the blue by a so-called windshield or glass repair technician, be wary of what they are pitching and selling. They may try to convince you that your windshield needs to be replaced on the spot, and they may just have the perfect windshield replacement for your vehicle. You will likely be told that your car insurance will completely cover the replacement, and their replacement windshield will probably be one that has seen better days. Your insurance rates could be impacted by such a scheme, especially if a technician latches on to your car insurance information and uses it to make other replacement claims using your name and insurance. Falling for this scam could cost you your insurance coverage and a lousy windshield or glass replacement.
Watch for Chop Shops
Another problem with untrustworthy repair shops is their “side work” that usually involves taking on parts from stolen vehicles. You certainly don’t want to unknowingly put your damaged vehicle in a repair shop that is a front for a chop shop that has dismantled stolen vehicles and sold the parts to your repair shop. You don’t want stolen parts as replacements for your vehicle and the strong possibility of your insurance being overcharged for stolen parts.
A Word to the Wise
If you want to avoid auto body insurance fraud, you want to find an auto body shop that is ASE ( Automotive Service Excellence) accredited as well as one that is associated with other creditable organizations. You also want to find a shop that is clean, organized and run in a professional manner and has a stellar reputation.
Another important aspect on your part is to request a full and complete written estimate of any work to be performed and the parts that will be used before any vehicle body work is initiated. Any unusual services, costs or parts used should also be questioned. Consult with your insurance agent if you have any questions concerning your bill.
Avoiding auto body insurance fraud is something that every vehicle owner should have a working knowledge of and if you are at all unsure as to how your car insurance can be affected by fraudulent activity, complete the online contact form and an informed expert will provide you with the information you need to protect your interests and the interest and safety of your vehicle.