Glass fraud can shatter your low auto insurance premium

You're at the car wash when a salesperson from XYZ AutoGlass approaches, shows you a nick in your windshield and explains how his company can fix it. The service won't cost a dime because your insurance will cover it. He even has free food or movie vouchers to thank you for your business.
Drive away as fast (and safely) as you can. You may be the target of a windshield scam artist.
Auto glass fraud has increased dramatically in the past few years, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. After an increase of 76 percent in fraudulent claims during comparable periods in 2008 and 2009, reported glass fraud cases increased by 527 percent between comparable periods in 2009 and 2010.
Windshield scammers may show up at car washes, fast-food restaurants or grocery store parking lots. They may even rent booths at county fairs, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. A disreputable company may try to convince a car owner that the windshield needs replacement when it doesn't or when a simple repair would fix a small crack. The company may say the windshield replacement it's offering is the same quality as the original -- and then actually install inferior glass more prone to breakage.
Some illegitimate windshield repair companies inflate their bills, charging insurers for work that wasn't done or for a higher-quality windshield than the one they actually installed. Others may steal a vehicle owner's insurance information and use it to file repeated windshield claims. Some companies offer worthless "lifetime" warranties for their products and service -- worthless because, when the car owner has a problem, they are long gone.
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud warns that vehicle owners who fall for windshield scams could be at risk in several ways:
  • Poor-quality glass can distort your view and more easily shatter, injuring the driver and passengers. It also offers less protection during a car accident.
  • Your auto insurance premiums could increase because you've made a claim. You could even lose your insurance if you're the victim of a company that files repeated claims under your policy.
  • If you knowingly submit a claim for an undamaged windshield, you could be fined or jailed.
To protect yourself against con artists, deal only with reputable, established companies in your community. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud recommends the following tips for avoiding windshield repair scams:
  • Avoid companies that work only out of the back of a truck.
  • If you notice a nick or small crack on your windshield, contact your insurer for recommendations of legitimate repair companies.
  • Check any work done against the invoice, making sure that you're getting what you've paid for. Obtain any guarantees in writing.
If you're approached by an auto glass scam artist, report the incident to your state insurance regulator. In the long run, auto insurance fraud raises everyone's premiums -- and that means more money out of your pocket.

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