You don’t need a Ph.D. in economics to know that everyone’s feeling the pinch. While most of us just cinch our belts and budgets by skipping a latte here and there, other less-than-honest individuals and companies resort to fraud, including windshield repair fraud, to fatten up bank accounts and profit.

According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, fraudulent auto glass claims have increased by 527% in 2010 alone. That means that more than ever before, drivers and insurance companies are being swindled by shady businesses and individuals (aka “claim bandits”).

So what can you do to shield yourself from some scammer’s get-rich-quick scheme?

With this question in mind, we turned to Rob Krohn, from Harmon Solutions Group, who offered some useful insights on how to avoid falling victim to bogus windshield repair claims.

The windshield repair scam

Imagine this scenario: As you pass through a car wash, you encounter a young man conducting a “free” windshield inspection. He checks out your windshield and amazingly finds 2 cracks. Then, before you can think twice, he explains that because the chips are so small, they’re repairable and that as long as you have “full coverage,” it shouldn’t cost you a thing.

After a minute of fast talking, he then asks you to call a number, a “glass line,” which he has readily available. You ring the “glass line” and talk to someone who identifies herself as a third-party representative for your insurance company. You give her your policy information, and by the time you pass back the phone, your windshield’s been “repaired.”

What it costs you

Unfortunately, free windshield repairs usually don’t exist. While the repair didn’t cost you a dime today, you’ll probably end up paying for it down the road. Claim bandits use your authorization to charge insurance companies exorbitant prices. Multiplied thousands of times across the country, these seemingly minor occurrences add up — and could cause your insurance premium to rise. Furthermore, once these bandits have your private policy information, they can charge multiple claims in your name. And that could lead to higher rates.

Check out:  The Hidden Costs of Home Ownership (Part 1): Air Leaks and Drafts

Aside from potential premium increases, however, these “free” windshield repairs can be a safety risk as well. After all, what do you know about the repair? Did the company use a quality product — and are the technicians properly trained? Unreliable and unscrupulous operators often do inferior work, which could cause further problems down the line.

What you can do

There are a number of simple and practical things you can do to protect yourself from being a victim of fraud:

  1. Just say no. If a salesperson approaches you in a public space offering “free” windshield repair along with numerous other perks to seal the deal, just say no. Easy as that.
  2. Inspect your windshield. It’s recommended that you inspect your windshield on a regular basis. If you find a chip or crack, have it repaired by a qualified technician before it gets worse. (If you’re an Esurance policyholder, we’ll plant a tree in your name when you have your windshield repaired instead of replaced.) Additionally, it’s a good idea to call your insurance company first for help finding the best provider in your area.
  3. Double-check your bill. Once all’s said and done, check your bill to make sure it’s correct and that you weren’t billed for more than you ordered. Verify that the name on the invoice matches the name of the shop you chose and that all billing details are correct. You can never be too careful.

By following these 3 simple and straightforward tips, you can safeguard yourself from fraud — and help keep premiums low for everyone.

DIY hacks

about Anne

If variety is the spice of a copywriter’s life, then Anne’s career at Esurance was akin to sassafras. From 2010 to 2014, she added a touch of zest to topics ranging from cleaning with baking soda to becoming a first-time homeowner.