Among the numerous ways con artists skilfully trick consumers into giving up their money, the “dent scam” is one of the more brazen. Scammers approach individuals, often in very public places, offering to repair the scratches or dents on their car or pointing out fake problems with their vehicle, such as loose tires. The consumer rejects the offer and continues with his or her errands, returning to find the damage repaired and the scammer demanding money.
As awareness of the scam grows, more and more victims are coming forward, and women seem to be the core targets. Common locations for this particular scam include shopping mall and grocery store parking lots and gas stations. In one instance out of Oklahoma, a woman was informed by the scammer that the scratches and dents could easily be removed from her car with wax. Ignoring her rejection, he commenced working on the car and demanded she pay.
Another instance involves a Seattle woman who was grocery shopping at Trader Joes. She was approached by a man whose offer she declined, but returned to discover he was working on her car while she shopped. The scammer ordered she pay him $150. The woman, intimidated and alone, ultimately paid him $60.
How can you avoid being a victim of the dent scam? There are a few tactics:
- Play along by saying that you need to go to an ATM and then immediately call the police.
- If you’re in a high pedestrian traffic area, strongly deny the offer and threaten to call the police.
- Refuse to pay and get back into your car. Move your car away from the scammer or run your errands elsewhere.
- Ask the stores to monitor their parking lots to catch these solicitors. If you’re uncomfortable walking back to your car alone, see if an employee (or two) can walk with you.
Remember: Any type of business in a parking lot is questionable no matter how convenient it may seem. Don’t fall for it!
If you find yourself a victim of this or any other scam, report the scammers to our Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.
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