Now the “warranty scam” is going postal

April 12, 2022 • 8:15 am

I’m sure all of us get these scam phone calls asking whether your car warranty is up to date. I get at least one daily on my cellphone and many on my office phone, too. Does anybody actually fall for this scam?

It’s particularly amusing because my car is a 2000 Honda Civic—a 22 year old car! (I bought it used.) The warranty has long expired, but it’s in great shape (78,000 miles and I just had some preventive work done). But if this scam didn’t work on at least some people, it wouldn’t be ubiquitous. (Do they have it in Canada and the UK, too?)

But things have escalated. I checked my mailbox on the way to work today, and found this ludicrous postcard. It’s the first time I’ve been the recipient of this scam via mail.

Front (I’ve redacted my address):

Back:

I love the way they try to make it look official. I throught about calling the number, but I’m afraid they’d never leave me alone if they could get my incoming number. But somebody clearly has it anyway.

47 thoughts on “Now the “warranty scam” is going postal

  1. I don’t think we get the same nuisance phone calls in the UK; the most frequent ones here purport to be about a recent car accident or bank-related. Theoretically UK residents can opt out of receiving marketing calls by registering with the free Telephone Preference Service, but scammers pay no attention to the legal penalties and call anyway. Nuisance calls mainly originate outside the country but the number they are calling from is usually “masked” to make it look like a local call. The phone line providers have been very slow to address the problem, but do seem to be finally getting a grip on it.

  2. Do they have it in Canada and the UK, too?

    We have similar scams, for example email spam is full of them (they just go to the Gmail spam folder). What we do have is a law saying you can opt out of phone marketing spam, which makes it illegal for any such company to call you. Why do Americans put up with spam phone calls?

    1. Because no agency will take responsibility for monitoring and filing suits.

      It’s possible for individuals to file charges, but you have to find the person and they absolutely will not give out any addresses if you talk to them.

      There were some big fines last year, but the volume of calls hasn’t stopped.

      How do I know it’s a scam call? The phone is ringing.

      1. Amazingly, old scams never die, or even update. Yesterday got back-to-back calls from Reader’s Digest *and* Publisher’s Clearing House telling me I’d won a million or so. We didn’t even fall for that 50 years ago, what is the logic to this?

  3. “I love the way they try to make it look official.”

    Indeed – a masterwork, this one.

    Somehow, Orwell’s thoughts on language come to mind … maybe Chomsky too, not sure why…

    But the font and layout are precisely done. I bet the paper even feels like “real” notices … if those exist anymore…

    I bet they have the birthdate of the recipient too.

    I think motor vehicles are actually a record that people can snoop on, also residences… I remember some website pinpointing a car I one had – chilling!

    Time for a P.O. Box?…

    BTW – hit the rusty spots with something before they eat a hole in the steel. Nice job, 22 years – I think Click and Clack would argue to repair early and often – it pays you back.

    1. How would a PO box help? They’ve clearly obtained Jerry’s home address by fair means or foul.

      That reminds me, back in 1999 I went to Seattle to do a software development course (run in person by Steve McConnell). Two of the other people on the course worked for a company whose business model was to scrape as much information as possible about as many people as possible from as many sources as possible (not the Internet) and sell it, mainly to marketing companies. This was only a year or two after Google was founded and before most people were on the Internet. I was astonished that what they were doing was even legal.

      1. I see

        Well, … hmmm… not sure, actually…

        Tangentially, there’s a YouTube channel focused (or “focussed”, if you like 🙂 ) on scamming the scammers. Mark Rober worked with him to do one of his Glitter Bomb videos (easy to find). It was astonishing to see the whole web get tested.

        It’d be less exciting but as interesting to see a similar debunking done for the thing going on here.

          1. Looks like Kitboga and Jim Browning collaborated with Mark Rober on Glitter Bomb 4.0.

            [ no links because YouTube dietary restrictions ]

  4. I wonder that a news organization hasn’t done a “sting-type” report. Have reporters sign up for the warranty, make claims, have the cars and repairs examined by known, trusted mechanics. Report.

  5. I get a lot of these and have for several years (in the US). This is a little more directly worded than those I have bothered to read, and the wording does make me wonder if they are pushing at postal fraud. (not a lawyer)

  6. You could contact the US postal service and let them know that a criminal activity is being conducted using the US mail service.

    This could shut down this aspect of the scam pretty quickly.

    1. If one were to call that toll free number (and I confirmed that 833 is toll free) the call would cost the scammers real money, not a lot for each call, but it can add up.

      Especially if you kept them on the line for a while.

      With the added bonus that while one was wasting the scammers time they could not be victimizing others.

    2. What is the crime? I’m not sure there are any false statements on that card.
      As I understand it, the grift is to sell you an extended warranty that covers very little and costs a ton. I think that if by some miracle you actually had a covered claim, they’d pay out, but I’m open to correction from those better informed than I.

      1. Have you done any investigation of these scame? Clearly not. They are attempts to get your personal information. I am astounded tht you think they may be okay because there are no lies on the card.
        You can start by reading here:

        https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2021/car-warranty.html

        https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/beware-auto-warranty-scams

        https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2021/04/08/tips-help-stop-flood-deceptive-auto-warranty-robocalls/7098844002/

        https://www.cnn.com/2022/02/10/business/ftc-auto-warranty/index.html

        This takes five minutes on the Internet. You’ve been corrected; will you own up to that?

  7. I tell them “I’m so glad you called, I need to update the extended warrantee on my 1946 Jeep, my 1983 Ford and my 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser” . The next thing I hear is a click.

    1. When I have picked up the calls, usually when expecting a real call on my own line, or the call is on the work line, I screw with them. I have been cursed out several times by the callers. One that is good for significant time waste, but will expire soon since the model was dropped a few years ago, so I’ll give it away, is tell them “Viper” for the car. They presume Dodge. Drag it out. Never agree, never dispute, but avoid specifics as long as possible.

      When it becomes unavoidable, Lockheed-Martin makes the Viper (F-16).

      The last few times, over the last year, when I say Viper, I get “F*ck you!” and a hang up.

      Scamming lowlife criminal scum, they are.

      When “Windows” calls, I usually just inform them that it is a criminal act to call an emergency number for a non-emergency purpose and quote the statute (the statute is state based, and varies: California, for example, is 148.3 of the penal code, in NJ 2C:28-4 applies, NY PL-240 in New York, and so on) The one I state is a felony for misuse and false reporting. I never say I am at an emergency number. I just let them assume it. Generally gets an apology and hang up, but once in a while, a hungry “paydirt” response, so I escalate to full BS mode, such as asides to my imaginary coworker about traces and “the team” from the embassy, or similar BS. That usually ends it.

      1. “I never say I am at an emergency number. I just let them assume it.”

        My grandfather was pretty tight with his money. He rewired an old rental house which of course was illegal. But he couldn’t get out of getting it inspected by the city. The inspector said whoever wired it did a fine job, and asked my grandfather who wired it. My grandfather replied, “Do you know D.L. Stinnett?” who was a local bonded and insured electrician. The inspector replied, “I do.” And that was all that was said about it. My grandfather did not say that D.L. Stinnett wired the house; he simply asked the inspector if he knew him.

      2. Guys, be cautious – who knows if a voice recorder is in use, and analyzing your vocal patterns.

        The guy on YouTube uses voice changing software.

    2. Hardly ever get a live scammer these days, most have opted for recordings, and if you merely ask “Who’s calling?” they hang up. No fun in that at all.

  8. Since that came through the mail does that mean they had to pay postage on it? If so, it strikes me that they won’t make money on the scam. Or is the telephone number a premium rate number?

    We do, however, have similar scams in the UK.

    It’s quite common to send a text message to somebody allegedly from a delivery company to say they’ve got a parcel that they tried to deliver and the mark needs to send money to get it redelivered.

    I’ve also seen income tax collection scams. My mother received a letter from a debt collection agency claiming to have the authority to collect an outstanding income tax debt (of which she had no knowledge). The letter warned her not to talk to HMRC about it because they had apparently handed it over to the debt collection agency and would refuse to engage with her. They sent several letters until she wrote back informing them that she had written to HMRC asking about the alleged debt and enclosing one of the letters.

  9. Just yesterday I received an official looking, “Motor Vehicle Notification” letter in the mail. Turned out to be an offer for cheap auto insurance. I also get junk cell phone and land line calls with similar offers. Too bad I don’t own a car.

  10. Considering how cheap it is to have a bot call thousands of people nowadays, it only takes one person falling for a warranty scam out of thousands contacted to make it profitable.

    Postal mail is a bit more expensive but the profit margins on that one person falling for a fake warranty is so great that the whole scam can still be profitable.

    Note they don’t say anything on that notice that is technically a lie, so they don’t get popped by the USPS. It’s true, you haven’t contacted them about your vehicle’s warranty! They just make it look very official, and if you call them that’s when the actual lies surely start.

  11. Like my UK compatriots above, I too get similar calls, but mostly about PPI mis-selling or about car accident injury compensation. I did get one recently about the warranty on our washing machine, which must have expired about ten years ago. Desperate business!

    Most of the calls are on our landline; indeed, we get very few landline calls that aren’t scams. But I seem to be getting a few more on my mobile these days.

      1. I usually don’t answer even when I DO recognize the number (and say so in my voicemail greeting). And I treat ALL non-handwritten mailings as scams (especially the ones that might NOT be). I do all my bill-paying online, anyway, so no one with whom I’m actually doing business is going to miss reaching me, if I want to be reached. It’s a good policy for a misanthrope-verging-toward-panantipath like me.

  12. I get calls, and I live in Manhattan and haven’t owned a car in roughly 25 years! Whenever I accidentally answer the calls (my phone helpfully codes them “scam likely”) I usually bs the poor telemarketer on the other end for a little bit, just to waste their time.

  13. We have no lack of scams in Canada. I am a little surprised that they are using mail; my mail box is usually empty these days except for advertising flyers. I did get an amusing email a while ago informing that my baseball trading cards had been sold on eBay and all I had to do to collect the money was to click here and give them my bank info. Since I have never offered anything for sale on eBay and don’t have card collection I was just a little suspicious.
    I think that they hoped I would think a legitimate sale had been somehow mis-applied to my account and I would stupid enough to try and get rich quick.

  14. In Canada? We pay the highest for telecommunication services, but get inundated with dozens of random numbers, ranging from tax scams to dial tone calls, each day. The service oligopoly is in no rush to implement any proactive remedies to flush out these phoney headaches. Never heard of this warranty one before.

    Side note, that’s some good mileage you have there! My 2009 Mazda is pushing 200,000 km, or roughly 125,000 miles. And I thought I was being efficient with my driving.

  15. I also have a 2000 Civic, bought new, now over 230,000 km on it. It has outlasted two of my wife’s cars (which to be fair to her vehicle choices, she had to keep in better cosmetic condition for work.) In the last five years I replaced corroded brake lines and some part that controls the fuel injection. Those were the only four-figure repair bills in 21 years. Even at this late date it is not costing much to keep on the road and when it finally dies, the Kidney Foundation will come and tow it away for free.

    Anyway, on phone scams, here is a low-tech solution. We got tired of paying Bell for their voice mail service just to have to page through a dozen scammer messages when we got home. So we bought an add-on answering machine that anyone from the 1980s would recognize except that it doesn’t have a cassette tape in it. Not only is it cheaper after about a year, it has two wonderful features:

    1) The scammer robot seems to recognize that the call has been “answered” by another machine and doesn’t say a word. It just hangs up. So the phone rings 3-5 times, then quiet. Often it doesn’t even wait for our greeting.

    2) If someone we want to talk to is calling, we can hear them starting to leave a message and then we can pick up, just like in the old days. (“I know you’re home! Stop ignoring me and pick up, you asshole!!”) This wasn’t possible with the integrated Bell system, not with the version we had, at least.

  16. I got one of those early last year. Just in case it was legit, I called my dealer, not the number on the card. I would say 95% of the mail we get is unsolicited, and almost 100% of the calls we get are telemarketers, including political calls. And if that wasn’t bad enough, my company has its own Political Action Committee, and a few weeks ago I got a solicitation about that in my work email.

  17. Never, ever respond to these scams. I had an extended warranty, through the dealer no less, and it was virtually worthless. None of the companies have a decent rating through the BBB. Find a decent repair shop and stick with it. Usually just keeping up on the maintenance on a car is enough to keep it running past 100K miles.

  18. About 10 years ago there was a no call list you could use in NY set up by the NY government. It worked pretty good cutting down unwanted calls. But gradually the calls started back up.

  19. I’ve never seen a warranty scam in Canada, but there’s no shortage of similar scams. The big one in the past couple years has been the CRA scam, where robocalls claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency (our IRS) tell people that an arrest warrant has been issued for taxes owed. Despite the fact they solicit repayment in the form of gift cards, some people do get sucked in. I’m not sure how weak your critical thinking skills have to be to fall for that, but if your personality is easily rattled I suppose you could panic your way right past a single logical thought.

    1. In my experience, elders and new immigrants make easy targets, unfortunately. The absurdity of using gift cards to pay the CRA doesn’t connect until it is too late.

    2. One assumes that people who have been scamming the CRA themselves, by renting out a room, or a whole second house, or running a profitable side business on eBay and not paying tax on the income are the ones most easily rattled into thinking that the jig is finally up.

  20. Yeah, I’ve found that the general rule with snail mails is “reverse importance” – if the packaging screams ‘you must read me’, it’s an unimportant ad. If the packaging is plain and unremarkable, it could be an important bill. Unless you are already significantly in arrears, billing agencies have zero interest in helping you understand when to pay your bills on time. If you overlook that credit card bill for a few weeks because the envelope didn’t look like anything, they just make more money.

    My latest gripe about nuisance phone calls is that I tried to get a quote for some contracting work online, and ended up using one of these referral/aggregating sites (‘we’ll contact all the relevant contractors in your area and they’ll send you quotes!’). Net result: zero good offers to do the work, and I strongly suspect the referral service sold my contact info to advertisers because now I’ve started getting many more text and phone “offers” for things I never asked for. So…caveat emptor, that (I’m making up an example here) “homehelper.com!” website is just a FaceBook variant: you aren’t the customer, your data is their product..

  21. STIR/SHAKEN was supposed to help with those calls. Ha ha ha ha. LOL.
    The scammers find ways around it far faster than the committees can decide the next countermeasure. And since the countermeasure must be public knowledge and have a public comment period, the scammers learn about it in advance.

  22. I recently received a call from someone in ‘Post Office Protection’ asking if I got many unwanted calls. You can imagine my short answer.

    1. I do like the occasional raer calls who simply claim to be from “THe IRS” or simply “the Government.”

  23. I may have offered this before, but I will again.
    If you have VOIP phone service, subscribe to NoMoRobo (nomorobo.com). It’s free for landlines, though you have to pay for mobile numbers. You give them your phone number. If a call comes in from a number that they recognize as a scam caller, your phone rings once, then the call is diverted to their system (call forwarding) and stops ringing on your phone. I’ve had it for several years now – it’s not foolproof, but it does reduce the number of calls.
    I have no affiliation with nomorobo, this is an unsolicited recommendation.
    But my usual tack if the phone keeps ringing beyond that one ring, is just to look at the caller ID, and if I don’t recognize the caller, I don’t answer and let the answering machine pick it up. That gets rid of more, since many of the scam calls hang up if they hear an answering machine answer. Sometimes I miss picking up a real call, but I can hear the caller as the machine answers and pick up if it sounds real.

  24. Odd: I’ve never gotten any such a call. Neither has my wife. First time I’ve ever heard of this scam.

  25. The only scam call I get here in Spain is the classic call from Microsoft. I can’t believe that people are still falling for this scam.

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