Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't Scam So Close To Me

Well, I was hemming and hawing about blogging about this at the risk of looking stupid. But I think it might be more important to warn others than to preserve my credibility in the blog-o-sphere. Hah, those two words look silly in the same sentence.

Besides, I'm upset and I've obviously already taken a bigger, stupider risk in the past 24hrs. Here goes.

A little background: I hate my car. It's not really the car's fault, per se - it usually runs well and is a comfortable, fairly new vehicle. But it causes me nothing but strife. To wit: the 4months it took to register in Virginia, the 12months to straighten out said registration because I live in neither Fairfax County NOR the fair state of Massachusetts, and of course, weekly parking issues that have been known to make me cry. The details of this situation are often hilarious (in hindsight only) and add up to me hardly EVER using my car. Which is 2x as expensive as it should be, also adding to my angst. Oh, Pasquale. I didn't even name you well.

For the past two weeks, I've been missing a call from an unfamiliar number. The few times I've gotten to my phone in time, I just miss the caller and they never leave a voice mail. Last night, I happened to be holding the phone in my hand when this number rang through and found myself in a very confusing, frustrating, 40 minute phone call about my car's warranty.

The fast talking dude on the other end of the line knew a lot about me - my full mailing address, name, phone number (duh), and the year, make, and model of my car. He was calling on behalf of my dealership because my warranty was running out. This was my final call because, according to him, I had been sent seven postcards warning me that my warranty was about to default. I've never received these mailings but my mail isn't the most reliable.

It's hard to explain all that went on, but the reason the conversation was over half an hour long was because I was really uncomfortable about what I was being told/sold. The problem is that I don't actually know anything about my car lease, but it seemed unlikely that I would purchase a 4yr lease with a 2-1/2 year warranty. But this was my "last chance" to respond, and I had to decide that night or I'd have no warranty for the remainder of my lease. I'm not very savvy financially and I didn't want to make a mistake. Warranties sound important. So after verifying 3 times that I could cancel within 30 days and not have to pay a dime.....I gave him my credit card information.

Even the idea of having to pay another $100/month on this life-burden of mine was obnoxious. But the impression that I was being swindled made me even more uncomfortable. I searched the company online - American Warranty Services is NOT listed by the Better Business Bureau and their website looks like crap. Their "testimonials" could not be more fake. So, finally making a smart move, I called my car company to ask if they had heard of this warranty company. Major props to Volkswagen, the woman I spoke with was extremely nice and calming. She did some research and called me back within 5 minutes so I wouldn't have to wait on hold.

Unfortunately, warranties go through the dealer, not the national company. So while she didn't have information on American Warranty Services (or Warranty America or Warranty Services), it doesn't necessarily mean that they are a fake company. It just means they don't contract through Volkswagen of America. Next, I called my credit card company and told them I suspected fraud. The charge hasn't processed completely yet - although it is there, and is the same amount they told me - so I can't contest it yet. But I will.

I just called Warranty Services to try to cancel my new policy, and was told a manager would call me back. I'm not holding my breath, but I at least got a name. I'll update this post with the end result. If this company is legitimate, I should have no problem cancelling without paying a dime. If they aren't, I'll work with my credit card company and the Better Business Bureau.

As of right now, it's all very ambiguous. I can't slander this company because I truly have no idea what the straight skinny is - except for the fact that my leased vehicle is most likely not operating with an expired warranty and the pit in my stomach hasn't gone away.

I know this was stupid, please don't bother leaving a post to reiterate that fact. This is just another item I'm adding to my "things they don't teach you in college list" - a post for another day.

3 comments:

Jenna said...

Oh noooooooooo! This went around at my office a while back... people were getting calls several times a week from various numbers all from the same company. Be careful and maybe even cancel that credit card.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23147777/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/automobiles/09CALLS.html?_r=2&oref=slogin

Jess said...

yeah these people have called me, mike, leah, people i worked with last year, etc. i wasn't fooled because my car is a 1997 buick and surely has no warranty left. similarly, mike does not own a car. i could understand your confusion since you actually have something worth warrantying. i agree with jenna that you might want to cancel the credit card. likely, you can just change the credit card number (i did this once when i had fraudulent charges). the credit card company won't tell you if you should or shouldn't since they aren't allowed to or something, but i would definitely change the number if i were you, it just made me feel better. good luck and sorry you got scammed!

Princess Rain-in-the-Pants said...

Thanks for your notes! I think the Today Show read my blog, hee hee:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22425001/vp/30364192#30364192

Full update to come soon.