St. Louis, Mo., March 10, 2017 – Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning motorists to be suspicious of strangers approaching them with offers to repair their vehicles after a Florissant woman lost $450 in an auto-dent scheme operating out of west St. Louis County.
The woman quoted the man as telling her: “ ‘I can fix this; I’ve been doing this for 20 years.’ ” But instead of repairing the scratches and bumper damage to her Ford Explorer, the man caused additional damage to the vehicle.
The victim said she has been unable to reach the man since he drove away from her office parking lot shortly before Christmas.
“It’s my own fault,” the woman said.
She saw the man again just last month at the same Earth City service station where he first approached her, and she believes he is still operating in the area.
The case follows several other reports of roaming dent-repair operators who have plagued the St. Louis area in recent years. Media reports in 2015 and 2016 described incidents where consumers paid between $60 and several hundred dollars each to have dents or scratches removed. In some cases, the so-called repairmen caused even more damage.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said consumers should be on guard against anyone approaching them with offers to repair their vehicles, especially in light of recent reports of storm and hail damage. “This is not the way a reputable company does business,” Corey said.
The Florissant motorist said she was pumping gas at the Earth City service station when the man, with a noticeable accent and driving what she believes was a silver-colored Acura or Mercury, offered to fix the front-end damage of her Explorer for $450 cash. In light of a $2,300 repair estimate from her dealership just days before, the offer seemed like a bargain.
He gave her a business card that read, verbatim: “Moblie Auto body Work. I Fix dents on the spot. 20 Years experiance. Fix rust Hail damage Scraches, scuffs marks and more.” She said the card had only a first name, Mike, and a St. Louis phone number.
She said she went to a local ATM machine and withdrew the $450 cash as the man and a female companion followed her to her office. She said he completed the work in 30 minutes as she waited.
She said she should have been suspicious because the bumper was covered in tape and she noticed paint “bubbling” when she inspected the vehicle. But the man convinced her the bubbles would disappear and she would be happy with the work once the tape was removed.
After learning her vehicle not only was not fixed, but had suffered additional damage, she tried several times to reach the repairman without luck.
“I’ve been scammed,” she said, “and they’re getting away with it.”
BBB has been unable to reach anyone with the business. A woman who answered the phone at the number on the business card initially said Mike was not available, but later said there was no one by that name at the number and no one there was involved in auto body work. She then disconnected the call.
BBB offers the following tips for motorists approached by strangers soliciting auto body repair work:
St. Louis Area Media Contacts: Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), email@example.com
Shellie Kreter, PR & Communications Manager, (314) 584-6723 or (314) 348-5451 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, email@example.com
Columbia media contact: Sean Spence, Columbia Regional Director, (573) 886-8965, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cape Girardeau media contact: Joey Keys, Cape Girardeau Regional Director, (573) 803-3191, email@example.com
Quincy media contact: Mara Clingingsmith, BBB Quincy Regional Director, (217) 209-3972 or (217) 242-6272 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org
BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information.