Dent Scams in Parking Lots

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By an edhat reader

A large pick-up truck pulled up in back of my car where I was parked near The Habit at La Cumbre, blocking me in. The passenger, a thin blond woman, said her husband who was driving, could fix the dent on my passenger side door for $245. I already have a friend who is going to fix it for barter services, and I've know him for a long time. I said, thank you, but my friend will do it.

This is the second time I've been approached by what I have learned are "dent gypsies". I researched these people by googling "dent fixers approaching people in parking lots."

It turns out they carry their equipment in the back of their vehicles, and they will jump out and fix your car in less than an hour, they only take cash. They will follow you to your ATM...this is scary! They don't have business cards, as I asked twice for them because I was too busy to be getting my car fixed out in the open. The first time it happened, I reported it to the Costco manager near my home in Nipomo. The guy started out at $1799, then $1399 and lastly $799. They would have ruined my car and it would end up costing me more to fix the damage they do applying a "wax" to cover up the dent.

Yesterday, I just wanted to run as fast as I could. Have any men been approached, or is it just women, alone trying to get places in a hurry?

Here are a couple of scenarios I'm passing on. I don't think it's just a CA thing. I found one in OR and Chicago, IL.

https://www.yelp.com/topic/san-diego-dented-car-do-you-get-stopped-by-gu...

http://komonews.com/news/consumer/dent-repair-scammers-targeting-local-p...

http://www.dentprosacramento.com/5-signs-youre-cheated-by-a-dent-gypsy/

http://www.dentprosacramento.com/5-signs-youre-cheated-by-a-dent-gypsy/

I will report this to the local police departments. There are no short cuts or steely deals when it comes to dent repair. These guys are scammers. They seem to work in pairs. B-E-W-A-R-E of DENT GYPSIES. They mainly approach people traveling alone.

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SB_TAHOE May 23, 2018 09:13 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Let me tell you all more about this as preventing these people from scamming naive targets has been my crusade for many years. My husband and I own a body shop in Goleta so I’m very knowledgeable regarding this. 1. It is illegal to collect money for car repair in the state of California unless you are registered with the BAR, the CA Bureau of Automotive Repair. Also, the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta require business licenses to sell services. 2. Private properties such as Camino Real Marketplace, Kmart, La Cumbre Plaza don’t allow car repair on their parking lots. 3. If an auto repairer won’t accept credit cards or checks, don’t have them repair your car. 4. No genuine, local, trustworthy auto repair business will be out combing parking lots soliciting work. 5. They will lie to get your trust or sympathy. “I work for a local body shop but today is my day off. I’ve got 5 kids and my rent is due” and often they’ve got the family with them in the car. I am quasi obsessed with blocking these con artists and will literally drop what I’m doing and butt in. I drive by or walk up and appear interested. Since I’m female the perp thinks I may be a source of income and is not guarded. I inquire about the goings-on. After he’s made a grand display of what he’s offering, I then attack, asking to see his BAR certificate and local business license. They always say that it’s in the mail or some other malarkey. I then ask if they have permission from Best Buy to perform auto repair in the parking lot. At this point they realize that I’m messing with their ability to scam someone and they get upset. Meanwhile their intended target is rapidly backpedaling, getting in their car and leaving, grateful that an anonymous person stepped in and enlightened them. I do at some point explain that I own a body shop but I don’t say which one since I’m not soliciting work or trying to gain a new customer. I’m simply preventing them from getting scammed. The last 2 times I did this the “repair” guys chased me down afterwards, angry that I had blocked them so it can be a little scary but I still do it every chance it get. If I’m in a parking lot near Storke Rd. I head for the Sheriff's office storefront in Camino Real Marketplace in case I need their assistance, and to alert them that the scammers are currently active nearby. I’ve had customers get an estimate from me for minor damage, and then come back the next week after they’ve fallen prey to a scammer. I’d initially quoted them $800. They’ve just paid the con artist $300. Now I have to tell them that it’s going to be $1000 since I have to undo the crappy job the other guy did, clean the overspray off, etc. They ask me to take pity on them and charge them less since they’ve already lost $300. So please people, investigate a car repairer before you let them work on your car, ask questions; if they give up and move on you’ll know you’ve done the right thing. Again, no reputable business will be out soliciting work in a parking lot to be performed in the lot or at your house.

LMD May 22, 2018 05:41 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

WOW!! This entry has garnered 50+ comments. Maybe a record in that short time as of it's first post.

tagdes May 24, 2018 10:59 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Don't know if it's a record when half of them are same person arguing with every other person that comments.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 05:02 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS while I understand your concerns, simply put, you can't regulate stupid. If you give your money to someone before they finish the job to your satisfaction, then that's on you. Whatever happened to just being savvy and smart? Why are we becoming so dependent on the government tell us what is good and bad instead of just ourselves?

Trudi May 22, 2018 06:13 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

What does fraud have to do with this? Fraud involves a knowing active lie or concealment, not whether or not someone needs to be licensed to do work. Ahem, you CAN be defrauded by a licensed mechanic too!

Trudi May 22, 2018 06:13 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

What does fraud have to do with this? Fraud involves a knowing active lie or concealment, not whether or not someone needs to be licensed to do work. Ahem, you CAN be defrauded by a licensed mechanic too!

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 04:46 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS - I just don't agree with you that people who offer to repair dents in parking lots are always necessarily criminals. That's all. You can accept it or not, but since you're not a judge, it's only you're opinion, not law, that the regulations apply to minor dent repair services. I'm going to just leave it at that.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 05:28 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

They may not all be criminals, but they are breaking the law. Think of all the gas powered leaf blowers that were used today in Santa Barbara. Each one of the most common two stroke variety puts out as much hydrocarbon pollution as three hundred Ford Raptor trucks. Every one operating those leaf blowers was violating the law. Are they also all criminals? I do not think do.

REX OF SB May 22, 2018 04:26 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Ten or 15 years ago I was approached in the Ralphs parking lot by a guy who said he could fix the dent on my pickup's fender for something like $95. I was instantly suspicious, but the price he quoted was very reasonable, so I made an appointment for him to come to my house a couple of hours later. Meanwhile, just to be on the safe side, I called the SBPD and asked if they thought it was a scam. A detective was at my house within minutes. He told me that the scam worked like this: the "repairman" would start the job, then realize he needed an important tool and would have to go buy it, and could you please advance him $80 or $90 so he could go to Pep Boys. And of course you'd never see him again. So when Mr. "Repairman" came to my door, the detective dealt with him and sent him packing. I never forgot this.

Potif May 22, 2018 11:44 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Still not sure i would have given him my address. But, otherwise you handled it well... You may have been very fortunate that the detective was able to be there. It could have gone badly, otherwise.

REX OF SB May 22, 2018 05:44 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

I wasn't going to let him in, just confine his activity to the driveway.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 04:33 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

REX - not sure why you would allow someone to come to your house that you met in a parking lot....

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 02:52 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

You left out the most important part after "and OTHER MINOR SERVICES" (sic). This is the next phrase, "which the director, by regulation, determines are customarily performed by gasoline service stations. " Do most gasoline stations do body work? Of course not.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 05:06 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

There are thousands of reported cases of parking lot dent rip offs every year all over the state and country. I would conclude that the vast majority of these people are grifters on the make. That does not mean that there may be a few people that will do a reasonable repair. Depending on the type of "huge dent" she had $250 may or may not be a good value. Some dents can be fixed on plastic bumper cars by simply heating the dented area.

sacjon May 22, 2018 04:54 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS - "she got lucky?" Haha! So, are you saying that some of these people aren't scammers and are, in fact, honest folk? Or, are you saying Sundance's repair person was going to scam her, but decided not to and to actually do a good job? I'm curious.... which is it?

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 04:50 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

She got lucky? Before there were food safety laws in the US, not everyone got sick eating bad food. Laws just made it less likely.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 04:37 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

You are going to have to help yourself. Do the Google thing with this phrase, "parking lot dent repair" You will get pages and pages of results that describe people getting ripped off by parking lot dent people. Keeping people from getting ripped off even for a few hundered dollars is important (did you notice that I did not use all caps, that means you are shouting).

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 04:32 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS - "like food safety, car safety, baby seat safety, truth in lending laws ect...." Yes, because those are all things that are IMPORTANT (safety, finances, etc). Minor dent repair is NOT. I don't understand how you can put those regulated services in the same boat as minor car door dents. Seriously?

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 04:26 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

We have laws for a reason, to protect the public. We have certification and licenses for many products and professions, to protect the public. Auto repair is regulated, like food safety, car safety, baby seat safety, truth in lending laws ect....

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 04:21 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

So because you are worried that you might purchase a shady dent repair in a parking lot, you want EVERYONE to be licensed? How about you just use your judgement and don't purchase things/services that may be sub-par? Why does everyone need to get a license for you to feel better?

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 04:09 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

My point was that the government needs to step in when fraud, like Trump University, is involved. It is simply not enough to rely on each person to have to know what product or service may be worthless or dangerous.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 03:49 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

If i get sick from a street food vendor, I blame myself for eating food from a cart. Also, I don't purchase food or services that I'm suspicious of, and neither should you MAS.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 03:43 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

It is an important part of the law. The statute clearly says that all businesses that engage in auto repair including auto body must have a license, except for service that is customarily provided at a gasoline stations. The intent of consumer protection in the auto repair business is to prevent fraud and to promote safety just like it is in auto sales, barber shops, the medical field, real estate ect

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 03:36 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

No just a citizen that thinks that consumers should be protected from parking lot grifters. Hey non paying Edhat commenter do you like eating corn on the cob from a street vendor? If you get sick from the hot mayo dressing, who are you going to blame?

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 03:08 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Not necessarily the "most important" phrase, since reading the provision in its entirety indicates that it is intended to not apply to services/maintenance that does not pose a safety risk or require "mechanical expertise." As for gasoline stations, when was the last time you had your tires repaired or your fan belt replaced at a gas station? You really need to read this with a more open mind and consider the intent of these regulations - safety.

oceandrew May 22, 2018 02:01 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS GAVIOTA, you don't like being accosted in the street by strangers offering a service you'd rather fork out $1000 for. You trust the guy with the huge overhead over the guy with none. I get that. I hate being telephoned by "contracting companies" offering all manner of house repairs, uninvited and unsolicited. The difference is I'm not going to call the FBI, ICE and the Coast Guard to make a federal case about it.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 02:08 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

There are dozens of mobile car repair vendors that are inexpensive, have licenses, do great work and do not have huge overhead. But they do spend more to do business the legal way, unlike the parking lot hustler.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 01:52 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

According to SUNDANCE's eyewitness first hand experience, this is clearly not a scam. Glad to see there are still resourceful people out there working hard and making a living in whatever way they can. Kind of like when kids used to go around neighborhoods after snowfalls and offer to shovel for money. But big gubmint maybe put an end to that too, did they? By requiring a "license" or "permit" to shovel? Sad. I hear lemonade stands now also require permits.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 01:20 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS GAVIOTA - $250 is not a minor job? When's the last time you got an estimate?

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 02:19 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Mas Gaviota - Yes, really. You forgot this part: "EXCLUDING repairing tires, changing tires, lubricating vehicles, installing light bulbs, batteries, windshield wiper blades and other minor accessories, cleaning, adjusting, and replacing spark plugs, replacing fan belts, oil, and air filters, and OTHER MINOR SERVICES"

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 02:16 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Really? "“Repair of motor vehicles” means all maintenance of and repairs to motor vehicles performed by an automotive repair dealer including automotive body repair work."

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 02:11 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

A minor dent is not "auto repair." Read your own citation.

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 02:04 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Paintless dent removal at a legit repair facility is about $75 a dent. So $250 should cover three dents with change. Or are these hard working people spraying paint illegally as well? Clearly some have seen value in their work while others have been completely ripped off. These parking lot repair people have no license so it is virtually impossible to track them down when they do rip you off. That is why California regulates auto repair just like it does contracting and many other pursuits.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 12:46 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

It's not about the cost, it's more about whether it "involves a part of the vehicle essential to its safe operation." A dent? Not so much.

Sundance May 22, 2018 12:33 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

So I do have first hand experience. I am a female, and I was by myself in the Gelson’s parking lot at lunchtime. A man and a woman pulled up behind me and offered to fix the huge dent I had on my front bumper for $250. They followed me to the ATM to get the cash and then followed me back to work, where he fixed my bumper and did a BEAUTIFUL job! Also, he didn’t ask for payment until AFTER he finished the work and I approved it. They were by no means criminals, they were very nice people, and I saved hundreds! Leave them alone - if you don’t like it just say no thank you. Nothing illegal about it.

Potif May 22, 2018 07:29 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Legal or not, you may have just been fortunate enough to have encountered other honest people. You also might have ended up being robbed, or worse. Glad you had a good outcome. But, you also had no way of knowing if they would do a proper job.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 12:34 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Sundance - thank you! This is exactly what I've been trying to say. People are trying to earn some money by providing a service. If you don't want the service, "just say no."

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 11:35 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

They are in violation of the law. https://www.bar.ca.gov/Consumer/Mobile_Automotive_Repairs.html As for being propositioned in a parking lot for dent work, it is the same as panhandling. Leave me the f$%@ alone!

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 12:33 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

"other minor services" - probably like popping a dent. Again, there wouldn't be such tight regulations for simple body work. I think this is getting overblown.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 12:33 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

"excluding ... other minor services" - probably like popping a dent. Again, there wouldn't be such tight regulations for simple body work. I think this is getting overblown.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 12:44 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Mas Gaviota - I think you should read that a little more carefully and think about the reasoning behind it (which is what a judge does when determining if it is a "violation of the law"). If "repairing tires" and "replacing fan belts," which are things that can create serious safety hazards if done improperly, are excluded from the definition you provide, then I'm pretty sure fixing a dent on a door would be considered a "minor service" which is not "essential to its safe operation." I may me wrong, but I just don't think you can unequivocally pronounce that they are "in violation of the law."

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 12:20 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Sorry, the law says otherwise. This is from the California Business and Professions Code: "e) “Repair of motor vehicles” means all maintenance of and repairs to motor vehicles performed by an automotive repair dealer including automotive body repair work, but excluding those repairs made pursuant to a commercial business agreement and also excluding repairing tires, changing tires, lubricating vehicles, installing light bulbs, batteries, windshield wiper blades and other minor accessories, cleaning, adjusting, and replacing spark plugs, replacing fan belts, oil, and air filters, and other minor services, which the director, by regulation, determines are customarily performed by gasoline service stations. No service shall be designated as minor, for purposes of this section, if the director finds that performance of the service requires mechanical expertise, has given rise to a high incidence of fraud or deceptive practices, or involves a part of the vehicle essential to its safe operation."

Mas Gaviota May 22, 2018 12:27 PM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Oh and if you "advertise", like harrasing someone in a parking, for paid auto repairs you are legally a dealer, although without a license, an illegal dealer.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 11:54 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

MAS GAVIOTA - I don't think the BAR regulations apply to minor cosmetic body work, this more to protect consumers from unlicensed mechanics who can seriously endanger others by screwing up engine functions, etc. In fact, if you look at the 1st page of the "regulations" linked from the site you provided, it only applies to the "repair of automobiles" as defined by B&P Code 9880.1 - that says "“Automotive repair dealer” means a person who, for compensation, engages in the business of repairing or diagnosing malfunctions of motor vehicles." --- Not sure popping a minor dent falls under the umbrella of "repairing or diagnosing malfunctions...."

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 11:09 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

The problem is that, they don't actually fix it. they put a wax on and tell you to leave it for X amount of time and then rub it off. Once you do that, you then realize that you just got suckered. I would be all for it if it was legit. But since I have been suckered ($200) I appreciate this post letting people know about it.

a-1553029003 May 22, 2018 11:01 AM
Dent Scams in Parking Lots

Wow, people trying to make a living without having tons of overhead and they get criticized? What proof do you have of any crime or illegal activity justifying police involvement? Without proof, your are just suffering from catastrophic thinking disorder and trying to get others to suffer, too.

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