Recently, a local resident related the following incident. She had paid off her car loan the month prior and received a phone call from a woman noting that her vehicle’s extended warranty — which had been purchased at the time she purchased the car — was going to expire. The caller noted they had sent numerous letters warning of this eventuality and hadn’t heard back from her, so the warranty would expire if she did not renew it that day. When asked if she wanted more details, the resident said “yes” and was transferred to a male voice. The resident asked numerous questions — noting she hadn’t received any expiration notices in the mail and the warranty she purchased was for the lifetime of the vehicle. The caller said his company had “purchased” the extended warranty and she needed to renew it that day — $175 today and a monthly fee of $128 thereafter — because the warranty expired upon her completing payments on her car loan. She asked the caller if her husband, who was on a business call, could call him back; the caller was adamant: her husband could not call back — this had to be taken care of immediately. Her husband then jumped on the call and began questioning the caller — and the call was abruptly ended by the male purporting to be from the warranty company.

The residents immediately called the number listed on their paper copy of the warranty and spoke with a representative. The representative confirmed that the call did not come from one of their representatives and that scam scenarios such as this can be quite common — especially after someone pays off their automobile loan, as that information is made available in the public record and scammers use this information to try and obtain credit card, driver’s license or social security numbers from potential victims.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a webpage that focuses on this very scenario — phone calls from scammers who pose as car dealers, insurers or manufacturers and tell you your auto warranty or auto insurance is about to expire. The FCC notes that these calls can be very convincing because the person calling may have information about the make and model of your vehicle, or your particular warranty.

The FCC cautions consumers to not provide any personal information to such callers unless they can verify they are speaking with a representative from a legitimate company. The FCC recommends you look at your caller ID as well. Legitimate telemarketers must display their phone number and the name of the company they work for. However, the FCC notes, the scammers can use “caller ID spoofing” to falsify the information transmitted to your phone. In the case noted above, an incoming phone number did appear on the woman’s cell phone prior to her picking up leading her to believe it was legitimate. If you doubt the veracity of the call, hang up and then call the phone number listed on your auto warranty or insurance contract to confirm the status of your policy.

If you receive such a call, make note of the number that is displayed so that you can report it when filing a complaint with the FCC or with the State of Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.