If you own a motor vehicle and live in the United States, you’ve probably received a robocall about extending your warranty. Or many calls: Auto warranties are now far and away the most common subject of phone scams, according to call-blocking service RoboKiller.
The company estimates that crooks placed nearly 13 billion such calls in 2021, accounting for 18 percent of all scam calls. AARP's October 2021 National Fraud Frontiers study found that 7 in 10 U.S. adults had encountered a car warranty scam in the previous 12 months.
“It’s statistically possible that every American with a smartphone will receive more than one of these calls during any given year," RoboKiller says in its year-end phone scam report.
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Auto warranty scammers try to take advantage of vehicle owners’ fears that, someday, they’ll have to pay a lot of money to replace a broken or worn-out part. If you answer one of their calls, you’ll typically hear a recorded voice claiming to represent an automaker or dealer and warning that the coverage you got when you bought the vehicle is about to expire.
You’ll be instructed to press a certain key on your phone to extend your coverage. This will likely connect you to a live “salesperson” who tries to get your payment information to draw up a contract.
The call isn’t really from your vehicle’s manufacturer or the dealership where you purchased it, and the “extended warranty” being offered isn’t a warranty at all. It’s a service contract that may cost thousands of dollars but provide only limited coverage (for example, for only part of the engine) — restrictions frequently buried in the fine print.
The person on the phone will often know details such as the make and model of your vehicle, which can make the pitch sound plausible. Such information is public and can be obtained from state motor vehicle records or purchased from data-collection companies.
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