AutoInsurance.com
December 1, 2022

Auto Warranty Scams: What to Look Out For

There were almost 13 billion auto warranty spam calls in 2021.

We‘ve all experienced robocalls. The most common ones these days are about auto warranties. In fact, a 2021 study by the call-blocking app RoboKiller found that auto warranty spam made up 18 percent of all fingerprinted calls (a method of using audio signals to identify spam calls) in the United States. But how can you tell a legitimate caller from a car warranty scammer?

What Are Auto Warranty Scams and How Do They Work?

First, let‘s define what auto warranty scams are. Auto warranty scams usually occur through calls that are either automated or pre-recorded, otherwise known as auto warranty robocalls. You get a call from an unknown number and hear a robot say, “Your extended warranty is about to expire.” The recording will instruct you to either stay on the line or press a number on your keypad.

Then, it‘ll ask you to provide personal information, which the scammer can use to steal your identity. More convincing calls may include specific and accurate information about your car or warranty to fool you into thinking the message is legitimate.

If you fall for the scam and send the scammer money, you may discover that the “extended warranty” either doesn‘t exist or is overpriced and doesn‘t cover much.

CheckTIP:

Always read the fine print before you sign a contract. If you don‘t, you could end up spending hundreds or thousands on an expensive service agreement, which differs from a legitimate extended warranty.

What are the differences between a pricey service contract and a legitimate extended warranty? This chart breaks it down.

Key information Auto warranty Service contract
Is it a warranty under federal law? Yes No, but it’s sometimes referred to as an “extended warranty”
What it covers Certain defects or malfunctions after you buy a car Certain repairs or services, but varies widely; could include maintenance like oil changes
How long it lasts A specific amount of time Varies, but extends the length of included warranties
Where you buy it Included in the purchase of new or used car Car manufacturer, independent companies, and dealers1

How Common Are Auto Warranty Scams?

Auto warranty scams are a kind of spam phone call. In 2021, there were more than 72 billion spam calls, a 32 percent increase from 2020, resulting in $30 billion in losses. Of those spam calls, auto warranty scams have been the most common type since RoboKiller began to track robocalls in 2017. 2021 saw almost 13 billion auto warranty spam calls, comprising 18 percent of all fingerprinted calls.

Cal category Estimated number of spam calls in millions in 2021 Total percentage of fingerprinted calls
Auto warranty 12.96 18%
Health insurance 3.11 4%
Religion 3.04 4%
Social Security 2.96 4%
Student loans 2.8 3%2

Key Signs of Auto Warranty Scams

If you get a call about your car’s warranty and aren‘t sure if a scammer is on the other end, look out for these red flags.

  • Urgency: Beware of someone pressuring you to make a purchase decision on the spot. Trustworthy salespeople will allow you the time you need to make a thoughtful decision and will not push for immediate action.
  • Unfamiliar company: Only your car‘s manufacturer can offer you an extended factory warranty. If a company you‘ve never heard of is offering you one, they‘re not legitimate.
  • Processing fee: Another big tip-off is a request for a processing fee. Don‘t pay anything until you‘ve verified a company‘s legitimacy and signed a contract.3
  • Certain phrases: Hang up if you hear phrases like “motor vehicle notification,” “final warranty notice,” or “notice of interruption.”

How to Avoid Falling Victim

As annoying as auto warranty scams are, there are some easy ways to avoid getting duped.

  1. Don‘t pick up unknown numbers. The best way to avoid robocalls is to only pick up phone calls from numbers you‘re familiar with. Even if a call has a number with your area code, keep in mind that this ID can be spoofed or faked. If you accidentally pick up an unknown number, don‘t say anything and hang up immediately.
  2. Screen calls through caller ID. Legitimate telemarketers are legally required to show their phone numbers and names or the phone numbers of the companies they work for. If you‘re unsure where a call came from but suspect it‘s a scam, call the number back during normal business hours and ask to be put on the “do not call” list.
  3. Don‘t give any personal information. If you‘re talking to a stranger, don’t give them any personal information, including your credit card information, driver‘s license number, bank account information, or Social Security number.
  4. Use a call-blocking app. Apps like RoboKiller can stop 99 percent of unwanted spam texts and calls. Available for iOS and Android devices alike, this app includes a free week-long trial.
  5. Check your real warranty. Your car likely came with a warranty of its own. Look for your expiration dates and terms for extension.
  6. Research the company. Look a company up on the Better Business Bureau to see if it‘s accredited and view any customer complaints.4
  7. Read the warranty‘s fine print. If you do agree to buy a warranty over the phone, read the contract‘s fine print before signing anything or sending over any money. How long does the warranty last? What does it cover? Give the terms of service a once-over with a fine-toothed comb.
  8. Join the National Do Not Call Registry. You can put your number on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)‘s National Do Not Call Registry via https://www.donotcall.gov/register.html#step1. While you may still receive calls for political groups, surveys, debt collectors, and charities, being on this list should block many telemarketers from contacting you.5

CheckFYI:

According to the Federal Training Commission, the biggest complaint category under unwanted calls in 2021 was imposters, followed by warranties and protection plans. Over 450,000 people complained to the FTC about warranty calls that year. Overall, 68 percent of calls were robocalls, while only 22 percent were live callers.

What to Do If You‘ve Been Scammed

If you‘ve fallen prey to an auto warranty scam, there is a specific course of action you should take.

  • File an FCC complaint. First, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us/requests/new?ticket_form_id=39744.
  • Report the scam to the FTC. Next, report your scam to the FTC through https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/assistant.6
  • Recover your losses. To try to get your money back, the process will depend on your payment method. For credit or debit card transactions, bank account transfers, wire trends through your bank, or money transfers using a bank account, contact your bank directly.

    If you used a gift card or a wire transfer through Western Union or MoneyGram, contact the company you made the payment through. If you paid with cryptocurrency, it‘s unlikely you‘ll be able to get your money back unless you used a company to send it.

    Finally, if you have sent cash in the mail, contact the United States Postal Service (USPS) or the relevant delivery service you used. They may be able to intercept the package. Here is some helpful contact information.

Name of company Phone number
MoneyGram 1-800-926-9400
Western Union 1-800-448-1492
Ria Non-Walmart transfers: 1-877-443-1399

Walmart2Walmart and Walmart2World transfers: 1-855-355-2144

USPS 1-877-876-2455
UPS 1-800-742-5877
FedEx 1-800-463-3339

Citations

  1. Hang up on auto warranty robocalls. Federal Trade Commission. (2021, May 19).
    https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2021/05/hang-auto-warranty-robocalls

  2. 2021 PHONE SCAM INSIGHTS. RoboKiller. (2021).
    https://assets-global.website-files.com/625442b4613eaa38d6514c11/62712673a07d65fd78c3ca50_robokiller_yearly_phone_report_2021.pdf

  3. Don’t Get Caught in an Auto Warranty Scam. Santa Clara County Federal Credit Union. (2022).
    https://www.sccfcu.org/dont-get-caught-in-an-auto-warranty-scam/

  4. Search Businesses and Charities. Better Business Bureau. (2022).
    https://www.bbb.org/search

  5. Car Warranty Scams. AARP. (2022, Mar 8).
    https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2021/car-warranty.html

  6. Watch Out for Auto Warranty Scams. Federal Communications Commission. (2022, Jul 28).
    https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/beware-auto-warranty-scams