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A product recall is never pretty. Organizing refunds and exchanges for customers takes time. Meanwhile, the customers just want their product to work!
Unfortunately, many scammers prey on customers’ confusion and frustration. There are several ploys criminals use to steal money or information using the cover of a product recall.
1.) Discounted cellphones
Recently, Samsung issued a product recall on their Note 7 phones, instructing customers to bring their phones to their carrier’s store and exchange it for a new one.
However, people who aren’t the original purchaser of the phone or who’ve bought it online, have had trouble getting the exchange. To recoup losses, they sell it online.
In the days after the product recall, thousands of Note 7 phones went up on auction sites like eBay, many selling for half their market price. It sounds like a great deal, especially when the seller promises the ability to trade it in for a phone of your choice. But buyer beware: Second-hand buyers of the phone may not be eligible for any refund program.
Before you buy a steeply discounted product, do a quick online search to make sure there’s no recall on it.
2.) Fake rebates
Sometimes, companies issuing a recall write checks to compensate the product owners. This strategy was employed by car-maker Volkswagen, in the wake of its emissions scandal.
Again, scammers capitalize on the recall. They buy the recalled vehicles for less than the buyback price, hoping to turn a profit. Alternately, scammers posing as representatives of a company issuing a recall, have pumped product owners for bank information so they could supposedly deposit the refund directly.
When getting a refund for a recalled product, only deal with the company directly. If a recently-purchased product of yours is being recalled, be proactive and find out on your own how to get your money back.
3.) Telephone number swaps
With large-scale product recalls, calling the company can be annoying; the company is fielding calls from thousands of buyers, leading to impossibly long hold times.
A group of scammers took advantage of this after a major Toyota-issued recall. The scammers sent out an official-looking email instructing Toyota owners to call a number that was one digit off from the official Toyota help-line.
Calls to this line were put on hold with a recorded message saying that all operators were busy. The message went on to explain that there was a premium help-line available to recall participants. There was a $5.95 per minute charge attached to it, but that information went by too fast for most callers to hear. Worse yet, people who called that fake premium helpline were asked for sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers.
Here, too, to avoid being hooked, be proactive. Call the company’s phone number. You may have to wait on hold, but you’ll be safe from scams.
YOUR TURN: How do you handle the frustration of a product recall? What tips do you have to keep your cool and keep yourself safe from scams like these? Let us know!