Small Talk

Car scams

August 25th, 2010

My friend Nate and I were discussing car repairs, when the talked turned to the latest scams he's been seeing in Hawaii. He's a car buff and belongs to car clubs, so he is very aware of these things.

I'd heard of the usual scams - padding charges, needless repairs, etc. In fact, I am sure I've been the victim of some of those scams. However, Nate had some new ones that surprised me.

1) Key imprint

According to Nate, you take your car in for servicing, and some unethical employee makes a copy of your car key which they can use to later steal your car, or things in your car. They look at your driver's registration to see where you live, and if it's not listed there, they ask for your driver's license for your home address. This is how they find the car later. He says he has two friends who believe this happened to them. These two friends used the same oil repair shop.

2) Breaking a part

According to Nate, there's a shop in town that seems to have a track record for fixing your original problem but breaking something else, so that you'll have to return later.

I was pretty shocked about both of these, and thought I'd put the question to the broader blogosphere: have you heard of such scams? Are there others? Where is a good place that you DO recommend taking your car for repairs and adjustments?


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12 Responses to “Car scams”

  1. galekaminari:

    Hi, Diane!

    Long ago, the most notorious, though not necessarily actual, place for breaking things used to be a major car dealership's service department. More recently, I took my car in to the more expensive sister's branch, 6 times to diagnose a problem (no charge, but an annoying "Unable to duplicate the problem" response each time except the last.) and a 7th time to actually fix it after the chief mechanic found the problem during the 6th visit. Sigh, at least that problem is fixed, but there are others!

    Try Tenney's at Algaroba. Tenney is really great, and treats customers like family. He is the Uncle who advises on what makes sense, and fixes well for reasonable prices. He is located on Algaroba, as you might have guessed, near McCully Street, on the Ewa side of McCully, beyond Chico's, and Camellia (?) yakiniku.

  2. RedZone:

    It is hard to know what is going on when you are not there to see it which is why I do most of my car repairs myself. I have an old truck which I have done most of the repairs with the exception of a clutch replacement. I have an OBD code reader which makes it easier to find problems. I am ususally able to find solutions online. I also purchase the manufacturers service manuals for each vehicle I own. I have a newer car that I will usually take in to the dealer for service as needed.

    If I do take my vehicle into a shop I use my own method to mark parts to insure that they were replaced or in some cases were removed. I usually discuss with the repair shop exactly what I want done and if they should find something else I would want to inspect it before and work is done on it. I always carry a camera and take pictures before I take my car into a shop and will take other pictures as I deem necessary.

  3. M:

    Hello Diane,

    They are scams for everything out there. Hard to trust anyone now days unless you know them personally.

    I do my own auto repairs and if the job is too big for me to do at home, I know lots of people that can do it for me. I also do my own home repairs and build and repair my own computers too. 🙂

  4. Popoman:

    Hi Diane,

    Car repairs and maintenance of same can be a problem.

    If you have a new vehicle - within its warranty - its' usually best to take it to the dealership. Hopefully the dealership has been around a while and has a good reputation. Those of us with older cars can be a "hit & miss" thing. Most of the newer cars require computers and expensive equipment to properly service. Gone are the days where "Uncle Bob" or brudda Bill can fix your car since it requires more than just conventional tools.
    If the dealership has a "shady" repair or maintenance reputation, it is your right to take it to a certified and professional shop for maintenance as long as records are kept.

    Scams will always be a part of life. Usually researching and asking around for a good reputable establishment is the best way. Cheaper isn't always better.

    Having been in the Insurance Business for over 48 yrs. I personally never encountered the "Key imprint" scam. There have been incidents throughout the U.S. on this, but is usually not a large problem. Investigators in the industry are able to track these sources and discourage this type of behavior. Since my experience was in the San Francisco/Bay Area, I am unfamiliar with the shops and establishments in Hawaii. Breakage will usually require that the shop provide you with the part. Most of the time, a call to the dealership or inquiry to the Car Mfg. will ascertain the probability of this happening. In which case, you may want to question the repair. Best thing though is take it a reputable and established shop.

    Not so much in repairs, but could I write a book on car scams and frauds. Too much for blogging.

    I don't want to sound like a "know it all" Diane, but you did select on 2 consecutive days of blogging, subjects that have been a big part of my life. Mahalo for letting me in.

  5. About Time:

    King scammer of all - the Honda service dept in Waipio. They always "FIND" something else wrong with my Honda when I take it in. One 'excuse' - "It's just a $3 part." Yeah, but at $125 an hour labor. One of my rear radiator hoses broke on the freeway by Punahou. It made it to the Manoa cutoff by the Chevron. I had all the hoses changed for 500 and change and they did a GREAT JOB. If it went to Honda they would have got me for $900+ easy.

  6. Ed:

    Here on Maui, I have a friend whose Civic was stolen and they found it parked in a neighborhood. No key punched or anything. The police said 24 Hondas were stolen during a 24 hour. period. About 16 were found without any breakin. Somebody is shaving the key into a master key. (older type key)

  7. townie:

    Since it's gone now, I guess I can call it by name... but years ago when I bought my first car, I took it to Ala Moana VW for a tune-up. They tuned it up, but called me and told me that my car wouldn't start now. I went down and they told me that my battery was dead. Asked if I wanted to replace it, I opted to go to Sears. When I went to a mechanic friend of mine to install it, he came back with, "Do you know you have an ice pick hole in your old battery?" Not only was there a hole, but they had removed the battery to poke the hole and put it back so you wouldn't see it. How's that one?

  8. RONW:

    how about the valuables that end up missing at the airport that you packed in your luggage. It's difficult to tell whether it's the work of rogue employees or management is in cohorts. Thiefs not the overcharging. Also, there's this Internet shop in a hotel on Kuhio that always charge you for the next 10-minute increment even though you've sign out at an 8-minute mark. Btw, you meant Mr. N, didn't you.

  9. Mr. Pocho:

    It's senseless to worry about this kind of stuff because these things happen in EVERY line of work/service. From restaurants and bars watering down drinks, to financial advisers recommending investment vehicles you don't need. From fitness trainers selling you supplements you don't need to plumbers and other contractors charging you for work they did not do. A rotten human is a rotten human. That's why you always ask for an estimate, and, if it's a really big job, get a second or even third opinion.

  10. Eric:

    There have also been instances where car valet employees have been guilty of the same -- imprinting keys and obtaining the home address of unsuspecting drivers by way of the car registration document. For this reason, I never leave my house keys with a valet attendant.

    In addition, home address information can be obtained by pushing the "home" button on built-in GPS devices (assuming that the driver/owner has their address programmed into their GPS system). In an article I read a while back, the author cautioned car owners to not program their home address into their GPS for this reason.

    Regarding car repairs, I always ask to receive the replaced part. I will also seek a second opinion for some repairs, without mentioning what was discovered by the first mechanic. I can then compare the two estimates and ask additional questions before proceeding.

  11. sven:

    Use and you should be ok.

  12. greenthumb:

    There are lots of good reasons to get a P.O. box and be faithful about updating your address. Your post about matching a car with its owner's location is one of them. We originally got a P.O. box as a place to have bank statements and other personal information sent to help guard against identity theft. We later paid the (very small) cost for duplicates of our car registration -- which you are supposed to keep in your car all the time -- and our drivers' licenses, both of which we changed to our P.O. Box address. A possibility to consider is getting a P.O. box in a different zip code from your home if that's convenient. Why? Because more credit-card issuers' phone trees and some self-serve gas stations are starting to use your billing zip code as a step in verification, and in Hawaii especially, guessing the zip can be pretty easy.

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