Those labeled as “door-to-door windshield-repair marketers” are in the news again after consumer posts on social media sparked concerns about the potential of identity theft.
HelloSWFL.com recently ran a story titled “Watch Out! Beware Wandering Windshield Repairmen” warning consumers of “people trying to get their insurance information for a free windshield repair.”
“But if you don’t say no, all a person needs is your full name and date of birth to steal your identity,” writes Bo Evans, who authored the story.
Officials from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department in Fort Myers, Fla., where the social media reports surfaced, said Tuesday that no police reports have been filed alleging identity theft in relation to the “windshield marketers.”
The complaints mentioned in the recent report by Hello SWFL come on the heels of an investigation last month into the door-to-door marketing tactics of an auto glass company based in Tampa. Orlando television station WFTV9 examined consumer complaints of high-pressure sales pitches by so-called “glass harvesters,” salespeople who promise a “free windshield” while trying to persuade car owners to file a claim for windshield replacement despite minimal damage.
Sometimes these companies go door-to-door trying to drum up business; sometimes they patrol parking lots, pointing out small imperfections in windshields. If a consumer agrees to have their windshield replaced, they sign a contract that allows the glass company to bill the insurance company directly for payment.
However, insurers say this practice drives up repair bills and legal costs because the insurance companies have no way of knowing whether the windshield is damaged or not.
Miriam Dotson of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department tells glassBYTEs.co™ that there are many legitimate small businesses in the service industries in South Florida, but consumers should feel empowered to protect themselves against fraud. Part of her mission with the sheriff’s department is to educate the public on ways they can avoid scams.
She says, “We want people to ask themselves, ‘What can I do to protect myself?’ ”
When it comes to an unsolicited sales pitch, Dotson says although it’s difficult to say “no” during a face-to-face encounter, consumers shouldn’t feel compelled to say “yes” right away when they’re approached. She suggests taking the salesperson’s information and checking out the company.
“Just say, ‘I’ll call you back,’ ” she says.
Florida is one of five states known as a “zero deductible state.” Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts and South Carolina all require insurers to pay for windshield replacement at no cost to customers with comprehensive coverage. Some say that this makes the states fertile hunting grounds for such business practices.
According to Florida’s Department of Financial Services, auto glass companies filed 19,695 lawsuits against insurers in 2016. That’s up from 1,389 lawsuits in 2012.
Jacqui Barrineau is a contributing writer for glassBYTEs.com™.