Life in the big city

Was I scammed?

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I’m still unsure whether, metaphorically speaking, I dodged a bullet a few weeks ago or if I was shot.

I was driving home at mid-day when, at the stoplight, a guy pulled alongside and motioned for me to roll down the window.

Listening was my first mistake.

He said that he knew me and I ought to remember him from the place where I bought my car. I had just been to the dealership that morning, so it seemed possible. He urged me to pull over at the curb ahead. It was daylight on a busy street, so I decided to find out what this was all about.

Second mistake.

When he got out of the car he started talking faster. He said wanted to help me out and, unlike the guys at the car dealership, he “wouldn’t charge me thousands of dollars to fix the problem.”

What problem?

When I got out of the car I saw he was talking about a dent on my car’s passenger side that I was unaware of. His buddy, who had gotten out of the car with him, was holding a suction cup tool used in body shops to pull out dents. “Frankie,” as he introduced himself, said they’d take care of it.

“Just don’t tell my employer” he said. Then, without asking, his pal put a foamy substance on the dent which covered it up. He told me to wait an hour to wipe it off.

Frankie was talking faster and faster and repeating a lot of the same material:

“I’m a good guy,”

“The dealerships want charge you a lot. I won’t do that.”

“My boss thinks I’m in Michigan so don’t tell him,” etc…

That’s the “confidence” part of a con game; My friend Frankie was giving me something of great value that won’t cost me much. We’re pals. I’m special. Let’s stick it to the man.

Unfortunately for Frankie, a few hours earlier I’d spent much more money for auto service at the dealership than I expected. I wasn’t in the mood to pay anyone for anything having to do with my car.

I told Frankie I didn’t have any money. His suggestions about what would be “fair” dropped from a few hundred dollars cash, to “a check.” Frankie was sad to learn I don’t carry a checkbook.

Before he could suggest we visit an ATM, fast talking Frankie’s spell had worn off. I walked around his car to see his license plate. His accomplice noticed and moved to block my view. Frankie now realized the jig was up. He and his buddy bid a hasty goodbye, backing their car down a busy street so they wouldn’t drive past me and show me their plate.

So there I stood, with what turned out to be car wax covering the dent which, as you would expect, was still there when I washed it off.

All I could think was, “What just happened?”

The Google Machine provided answers; It’s a popular con that involves scammers driving around looking for dented cars. If they can engage the driver in conversation, they try to convince the potential victim they can fix the dent quickly for far less money than a dealership. The car wax is meant to keep the victim from discovering he’s/she’s been had until after payment and getaway.

My surly disposition (and cheapness), helped ensure I didn’t give the mopes money, which kept me from being a sucker.¬† On the other hand, I gave then ten minutes of my time. Arguably,¬†that makes me a chump.

It’s good to be reminded that you should never engage in a conversation with someone who claims to know you, if you don’t know them.

But I still don’t know how my car got dented.

Maybe I am a sucker.

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Here’s a local TV story about the scam.

Fake Auto Body Repair Scheme Targets Victims With Dents In Cars