Fraud Alert: Airbag Scams

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 21st, 2008

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday reported on an alarming new type of auto fraud. Their investigation revealed that, when cars have been in crashes and the airbags have deployed, some auto repair shops aren’t installing new airbags. Instead, they’re either putting back the original airbag, cramming in other material, or leaving the space empty. The results can be deadly. Often, the repair facility will bill insurance companies for new airbags, but never install them.

Similarly, NPR reported on a case where an unsuspecting consumer purchased a used car, not knowing it had previously been in a crash, and discovering that the airbags were useless.

While the government doesn’t track airbag fraud, NPR notes that, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report that reviewed 1,446 fatal crashes and found that in 255 of those cases, the air bags had not been replaced after a previous accident.”

Scary stuff, indeed. This reinforces that, when you’re buying a used car, you have to obtain a vehicle history from a service like CARFAX to see if it’s been in a crash. If you’ve been in an accident, make sure you use a reputable repair shop. And, don’t assume that when the airbag light comes on, there’s a sensor malfunction. Get it checked to make sure that your vehicle’s airbags will deploy in the event of a crash.

Is Carfax a Lemon of a Report?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 2nd, 2008


I’ve written about the unreliability of Carfax reports before, but this recent piece by colleague Dale Irwin out of Kansas City highlights the issue for consumers once again.  Irwin believes, and I agree, that Carfax does not protect you.  He estimates that nine times out of 10 a Carfax report will not reveal previous wreck or flood damage to a car.

Used car buyers relying on such “clean” Carfax reports shown by dealers are more likely to be cheated buying used cars. Dishonest dealers will actually use Carfax reports to make consumers believe that the cars have not been wrecked, though dealers frequently detect previous damage.

Why such incomplete information? Well, it comes to light that Carfax simply doesn’t get damage claim information from insurance companies or from rental and lease car fleets. Instead, it gets information from government sources that is often stale by the time it is reported. 

Irwin’s advice to consumers cannot be understated or repeated frequently enough: if you’re buying a used car, have it inspected before the purchase by a qualified body technician. Do not rely on Carfax (or Autocheck or similar databases) to protect you.