You have an accident and take your car in for repair. Or you take your car in for maintenance or even an oil change. Everything gets repaired/replaced; you pay the bill and believe everything is fine. Or is it?

  • Was your airbag really replaced? Make sure your airbag light comes on when you start the car. (People have DIED as a result of this kind of fraud!)
  • If it was replaced, was it replaced with a stolen airbag? Auto thieves often sell stolen airbags to body shops for as little as $50. The body shop bills the insurance company the cost of a new airbag (they're not cheap).
  • Was it replaced with a recycled airbag and the insurance company paid for a new one? Ask the body shop to provide you with a copy of their invoices for the parts replaced on your car. If they don't have the invoices there has to be a reason. Think fraud!

This scenario can happen with almost any part, including the new air filter you bought when you got your oil change. Check your air filter before you drive away. Showing you one doesn't help much ... they certainly have some in their trash bins.

Stolen parts may also be found at Salvage Yards. Few states have serious regulation that requires tracking of where their inventory was purchased. Illinois has some excellent laws on their books regulating this industry.

When picking up your car from the body shop, also check for repair vs. replacement. It is not unheard of for a shady shop to bill for a new quarter panel replacement, but instead of replacing it, they repaired the old one using a section of sheet metal. If the replacement panel still has a factory weld, it wasn't replaced. Who's the victim? You're the victim!

All these fraudulent charges add up - checked your collision premium cost lately? You paid for it, but you didn't get what you paid for, if you've been scammed by a repair shop. Yes, there are many reputable shops (in fact, most shops are honest), but a crook behind the cash register of a dishonest shop can cost you big bucks. And once in a while he can cost you your life.

If you think you've been scammed, contact your insurance company. Ask to speak to someone in their Special Investigation Unit. They'll be happy to hear from you.