Wednesday, 28 October 2009 02:31

Causey --- Body Shop Alert: Scam Artists Still Want to Steal Your Money!

Written by Mike Causey
As a follow-up to a previous article on body shop scams, a reader from Massachusetts sent me this letter:

Dear Mike,
I just came across your March article about body shop TTY scams. We are a small body shop operating in Massachusetts and we too have received these calls. The first came in spring, the same story about an Escalade that was in an accident in Arizona that the owner wanted towed to Massachusetts for repair. (Big alarms start sounding! We try hard to send out good work but come on. There has to be 5,000 body shops between here and Arizona, get real!)

We have regular customers that are deaf, so we are familiar with TTY phone calls. This was NOT a real TTY call. The woman identified herself as being an operator for an online company that assisted people, who were not necessarily hearing impaired, with phone calls (she was also less than friendly about sharing this information with me). A real TTY operator starts by identifying themselves with an operator number and asking if you have ever received a TTY call before. This operator did neither of those things. After that it was easy to figure this was a scam.
    We just received a second call today. This one was a little more difficult to feel out as a scam. This call came via a real TTY operator. The vehicle was "located" in a nearby town, it all seemed kosher until we asked how the owner was going to pay for the tow. Of course they wasted 20 minutes of our time before getting to this point.
    If there is an [agency] to send complaints about this I would love to know. I feel bad for anybody who jumps at the chance to take a big job like they are hearing about over the phone only to be raked over the coals.
Paige Brzozoski
T&M Auto
The Berkshires, Massachusetts
As Ms. Brzozoski points out, scams are easy to spot if you are alert to the warning signs.
    Here is another email received recently by a North Carolina body shop:

Good day Sir/Madam,
My Name is Anthony Scott, I got your email address while i was looking for an auto body repair shop that can help me to repair my 2007 Honda Accord EX-L V6, while I have already found one tow truck driver that will deliver it to your company for repair and right now I’m not in town at the moment so I won’t be able to come around until the car is fixed already so meanwhile I want to know if you accept credit card for payment so I can get you paid through that was I think it better and easier.... I hope to hear back from you soon.... Thank you,
    With All Regards,
    Anthony Scott

When an email such as this is received let the warning bells and whistles sound. Before you or your staff delete this message, please email to the Federal Trade Commission at: spam@uce.gov. Once you do this, you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself and sleep better too! Stay alert to scams and alert your staff to be on the lookout for them. YOU are being targeted NOW!

Ways to protect your business from phone scams
If you receive a suspicious phone call:
• be cautious: if you have doubts about a caller – hang-up
• never send any money in order to receive something- prize, etc.
• never give out private financial information  

How to spot a scam:
• if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
• you are often asked for money up front to release your 'win'.
• you are asked for your bank account, credit card details or other confidential information.
• the caller is more excited than you.
• the stranger who calls wants to be your best friend.
• you must reply right away or the money will be given to someone else.