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BBB: Watch out for parking-lot scammers

Posted at 12:34 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 13:34:50-04

The Better Business Bureau reports that they are getting reports of persuasive strangers approaching folks in parking lot, offering to fix dents in their cars.

When getting in or out of your vehicle, stay alert to the following tactics and avoid falling prey to this scam, the BBB says.

How the Scam Works
A person approaches you in the parking lot of a store stating they noticed dents on your car. It just so happens that they work at a body shop and can fix them for you! They promise to charge much less than what a shop would, and they can make the repairs on the spot while you are shopping. The “repair person” may try to appeal to your altruistic side by claiming that you’d be supporting their small business.

If you agree to the repairs, more than likely you will end up with a ruined car exterior. One victim told BBB Scam Tracker: “He was ‘fixing’ my car while I was in the store shopping. When I came out, he had drilled a bunch of holes into the body of my car. He told me it was standard procedure to drill holes in order to pull out the dent. Then, he put a black putty thing all over the holes and told me not to take off the putty until 24 hours later. When I tried to take off the putty, it looked worse than before."

According to the descriptions submitted to the BBB, when people questioned the work or the cost of the repairs, the “repair person” appeared to become aggressive and tried to intimidate them.

How to Avoid Repair Scams

  • Be wary of unsolicited offers. This kind of scam starts with someone who just happened to drive by and notice the car needed a repair. If you are approached by a stranger in a parking lot offering repair services of any kind, be careful, ask questions, and if they have a business card, offer to check out the company they say they're representing to see if it is in fact legitimate.
  • Don’t fall for high pressure sales tactics. Scammers will often pressure their target to accept their offer, demand full payment upfront with a statement that the person will never get a better price anywhere else. In addition, they only have time to do the repairs at that moment. High pressure, now-or-never sales tactics are a hallmark of scams.
  • Research repairmen and repair shops before you do business. Look up reviews and business ratings of any repair person or company before agreeing to any service. If you are dealing with an individual repairman, ask for references to call and verify the quality of the work. If a person can’t wait for you to research and compare companies, find someone else to do the job or explain to the imposing salesperson that the problem can be taken care of somewhere else.