In 2017, Aviva Canada did an undercover investigation to expose fraud in the automotive repair industry. The insurance provider purchased 10 cars, purposely damaged them, and then had experts estimate the cost of repairs.
Aviva’s team evaluated the collective damage to be approximately $30,000. However, when they took the cars to the repair shops, they were quoted close to $60,000. The investigation concluded that nine out of 10 repairs involved fraud and an estimated 57% of the total costs billed to Aviva were fraudulent.
While the results of this investigation might seem to highlight a problem that affects only insurance providers, repair fraud trickles down to the consumer, too. Being overcharged for a repair can increase the cost of your insurance claim and potentially affect your car insurance premium when your policy renews. Insurance fraud costs Canadians more than $1 billion each year, and if an insurance provider loses money to fraudulent claims one year, it may raise its premiums the next year to recoup some of those losses.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to alert yourself to the signs of a fraudulent auto body shop and avoid a faulty repair.
What to look for when it comes to auto repair fraud
To avoid paying for fraudulent auto repairs, watch out for these common tactics the next time you need to have your vehicle fixed.
Saying you need more work done than expected
People often go into repair shops looking for a simple repair only to be told there are several other “urgent” problems that need to be fixed. Mechanics can use scare tactics to get unsuspecting customers to authorize and pay for unnecessary repairs. For example, you may go in for a routine oil change only to be told that you need new brakes immediately — and no one wants to drive a car with faulty brakes.
If you’re skeptical about additional repairs recommended by your mechanic, get them to explain what the problem is and ask if you can see the broken part. If they give you roundabout answers, get angry, or refuse to show you the defect, this could be a red flag and you should seek a second opinion.
The manual from your vehicle’s manufacturer lays out a set of milestones for when to have various parts replaced. If your repair shop is suggesting you need to replace a part of your vehicle, it’s in your best interest to look through your manual to see when the manufacturer recommends the part should be replaced. If your mechanic is suggesting you replace the part prematurely, this may be a sign you’re being ripped off.
If you bring your car into a shop for a specific issue and your mechanic prescribes a plethora of repairs without being able to clearly explain what the problem is, this may be a sign of repair fraud. Dishonest mechanics can use jargon and vague terminology to confuse customers so they will authorize unnecessary repairs that seem legitimate. Before getting out your credit card, mechanics should be able to tell you exactly what the problem is and what needs to be fixed.
What to do if you suspect you’ve been scammed by your repair shop
If you think you’ve been scammed by your auto repair shop, your first step is to report it to local authorities.
“If you suspect your mechanic is creating fraudulent repairs or charges, it is recommended to gather as much data and information as possible and contact Consumer Protection Ontario,” says Nadia Matos, manager of external communications at CAA South Central Ontario.
Consumer Protection Ontario is a provincial program that works to enforce the rights of consumers by enforcing public safety laws and investigating filed violations.
“In these situations, it is also good to contact the fraud division of your police department,” says Matos.
Filing a police report can help target organized crime groups and help create proactive strategies to prevent fraud long term. You can also contact your insurance company and/or file a complaint with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
How to find a reputable repair shop in Canada
Using recommended body shops is one of the best ways to be proactive against repair fraud. Minimizing this risk can help you maintain a lower premium, as can comparing car insurance rates annually to ensure you’re not overpaying for your policy. You can find recommended body shops by speaking with your insurance company, a trusted friend, or reading reviews online.
Each insurance company has a list of preferred body shops that they recommend to their customers. While you’re not obligated to bring your vehicle to a preferred shop following a claim, you can find peace of mind knowing that these shops have been evaluated by insurance companies and chosen by providing accurate estimates and high standards of repair and service. Using the body shops recommended by your insurance company can ensure you don’t unknowingly seek out the work of a fraudulent mechanic.
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