Dent Scams in Parking Lots

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.

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.


Written by Cheryl Elliott

What do you think?


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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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”

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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….

  12. 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.

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