I've heard of these schemes here and there, but have never received one myself, until yesterday, when I received a notice from Safeguard Auto (although I had to call them to find out what company sent the notice). I guess this time they mailed it to the wrong person, given the blog I keep in my spare time. Although these schemes are not outright scams, I gotta tell you, they are very very deceptive to say the least. There are numerous warnings and complaints via the BBB boards I just read through and I had to do a lot of digging to find out more information.
The article I'm writing here today is ONLY MY opinion of this company! This is simply my experience with Safeguard Auto and my personal review of the company.
So, about 3/4 months ago I purchased a new 2016 vehicle. Yes, I have plenty of warranty coverage with my new vehicle and am very pleased with what I have. Yesterday, July 26, 2016, I received an official-looking notice in the mail. This is the envelope I received:
As you can see, very plain but the "IMPORTANT NOTICE" and the US Code mention on the envelope makes it appear as though this is a very important communication. After some research, I did look up the TITLE 18 SEC. 1702 - US CODE they point out in an effort for legitimacy. And it's actually the Obstruction of correspondence US Code:
TITLE 18—CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
§ 1702. Obstruction of correspondence
Whoever takes any letter, postal card, or package out of any post office or any authorized depository for mail matter, or from any letter or mail carrier, or which has been in any post office or authorized depository, or in the custody of any letter or mail carrier, before it has been delivered to the person to whom it was directed, with design to obstruct the correspondence, or to pry into the business or secrets of another, or opens, secretes, embezzles, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 778; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(I), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
HISTORICAL AND REVISION NOTES
Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., § 317 (Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, § 194, 35 Stat. 1125; Feb. 25, 1925, ch. 318, 43 Stat. 977; Aug. 26, 1935, ch. 693, 49 Stat. 867; Aug. 7, 1939, ch. 557, 53 Stat. 1256). Section 317 of said title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., was incorporated in this and section 1708 of this title. Minor changes were made in phraseology.
1994—Pub. L. 103–322 substituted ‘‘fined under this title’’ for ‘‘fined not more than $2,000’’.
In layman terms - it's the "do not tamper with mail" code which most every American is fully aware of, and means nothing more important than that.
So anyway, I opened the letter. It was a pretty pink stationary with a very official looking seal in the upper left that at first glance looks very similar to the torch in the BBB logo that you might see on legitimate BBB correspondence. A closer look, you can see a difference but it's pretty darn close. The seal has the text: "Department of Warranty Services National VSC Program".
This is a scan of the letter, what is YOUR opinion?
Let me just point out a few things about this letter that makes it a deceptive advertisement.
First of all, their company name, Safeguard Auto, is not mentioned anywhere on the letter! Not even in the very fine print at the bottom of the letter. This is deceptive!
Instead of giving the consumer the opportunity to research their company name PRIOR to calling the 800 number on the letter, they have kept the consumer in the dark as to their identity which basically makes an uninformed consumer have to call them if they want any information at all (which I did do in this case).
Secondly, there is no disclaimer anywhere to make the consumer aware that this company is not affiliated with any dealership, car manufacturer or automotive group at all.
How is this important? Because it misleads the average consumer into thinking that this letter came from a company that may be affiliated with the company or group they purchased the vehicle from. Again, an uninformed consumer would have to call to find that out.
Third point being that nowhere in the letter do they disclose that they are a third-party provider of the warranty mentioned in the letter.
This leads the consumer into assuming that the warranty they may be purchasing is written by Safeguard Auto, when in fact it could be a warranty through any company Safeguard Auto chooses (or claims to represent). And in fact, if you read through some of the complaints against said company, you will see where Safeguard had told customers that their claims were denied not by them, but by the actual company that wrote the warranty and that Safeguard was just the "middleman".
Fourth point is the fake urgency of the letter.
As you can see, there are bold statements throughout the letter that leads a consumer to believe that they must call and sign up right away at the risk of losing any coverage they may have. It also lessens the time a consumer my have to properly research. Companies like Safeguard count on just that!
The website on the letter also is a fifth red flag for me.
I looked up the domain autoexpiration.com to see who it is registered to since there is no company name anywhere on the letter. It is a one-year only privacy registered domain. In the web world- this means that the company doesn't plan on the website being around more than a year. HUGE red flag for anyone familiar with how the web works. I also went to the website (was a specific URL on my letter) and got to a landing page where it asks for the coverage ID. I didn't put that in. Instead, I viewed the source code and found that the webpage is actually framing a page from an entirely different website.
This is where the autoexpiration.com link took me (the framed part is highlighted in yellow):
This was in the source code:
<iframe id="scontent" noresize="noresize" frameborder="0" src="https://expresslandingpages.com/Default.aspx?url=<removed to protect identity>&t=010&ref=na&fo=&infousaid=&merchID=&p5="></iframe>
So - why wouldn't Safeguard Auto just take you to their website? Why would any legitimate company go through such lengths to protect their identity? In order to FORCE a consumer to call one of their high-pressure sales people and get to the consumer's wallet. That's why.
So - what did I do? I called them, blocking my number of course because I am on the National Do Not Call Registry myself. I have a transcript of the call that I won't post here, but here are some of the highlights from the phone call.
After the typical "your call is being recorded" recordings and a sales rep answered, I asked them what this letter was about because I just bought the car and have a warranty through the dealer. I did tell her I was confused as to why we got the letter.
She asked for the Coverage ID from the letter, which I gave her.
She then asked if I purchased a warranty when I bought the vehicle. I said that I did and that I'm sure I paid extra for the extended warranty.
She said (and I quote) "There's a 3-year/36 on there from the manufacturer unless you purchased additional coverage for a couple thousand dollars."
I told her I thought I did and she said (again, I'm quoting her) "Ok, you would have paperwork on that and you would know that you paid multiple thousand dollars on top of your car payment."
I told her that we did pay extra so I didn't understand why they sent us a letter.
Her response, and again, I'm quoting:
"A lot of people don't take coverage out through their dealership because they give you a lower level and they overcharge you for it. So technically we're the ones that set up extended coverage."
I did ask things like, "Are you part of the dealership" and she did say that they're not. I asked if I needed this coverage and she did tell me I do if I want a warranty. I also asked if this is in addition to what I currently have and she said I would cancel my current coverage and take theirs. And she also made sure to inform me that my extended warranty is through my dealership, NOT my car manufacturer and that my car was manufactured in Mexico. What that has to do with my warranty, I will never know.
I just asked her to remove me from her mailing list and she made sure to warn me that there are many other companies selling the same thing so she wanted me to know I'll still be receiving letters but that it won't be from them. Laughable. And this was just a couple of minutes on the phone with them before I ended the call. Can you imagine what it must be like for someone who may not know better and being kept on the phone for upwards of 10/15 minutes as some of the complaints have stated? WOW!
I honestly debated about whether or not to write an article on this letter. I mean, I could have just simply thrown it away, but that's not who I am. I did Google the phone number and PO Box on the letter and there was nothing - nada - zip - on who this letter came from. BUT - when I googled one of the phrases from the letter, it did pull up an interesting article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in Wisconsin warning of these exact types of warranties and companies. The article can be found here:
It was very informative to say the least. So, I decided I would go ahead and write an article on the letter I received in an effort to educate uninformed consumers on what these are. After all, my blog is meant to warn people, isn't it? And just in the case that someone else is Googling the information from a letter they may have received, I thought I'd better include the content of the letter so that it is searchable, too. I will also be reporting this to my state's department of ATC so that they have the latest contact information being used by these companies. But something tells me, the ATC already has it because I have a feeling this is all from the same people using different names. I found two different companies by this name at the BBB, and through my research found that Safeguard Auto is part of Marathon Administrative Company.
Anyway - this is the letter I received in it's entirety.
Extended Coverage Department
PO Box 85073 #66587
Richmond, VA 23285-5073
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO THIS NOTICE REQUESTED
<my mailing address>
CID: RMAN-<removed to protect identity>
Notice Date: 7/15/2016
Coverage ID: RMAN-<removed to protect identity>
Contact Phone: 1-877-418-6184 (Toll Free)
<removed to protect identity>
Program Term Deadline:
Call to verify the above information
Read below for more information
IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO THIS NOTICE REQUESTED
Notice Date 7/15/2016 Coverage ID: RMAN-<removed to protect identity>
Year / Make / Model: 2016 <removed to protect identity> Coverage Status: AVAILABLE
Program Term Deadline: 8/14/2016
ATTENTION: <removed to protect identity>,
Our records indicate that you have not contacted us to have the vehicle service contract for your 2016 / <removed to protect identity> updated. You are receiving this notice to ensure no lapse in warranty coverage. Warranty expiration is based on the mileage and age of your 2016 / <removed to protect identity>. Call now to update your coverage.
Please call 1-877-418-6184
To initiate your form online, you may also go to your personalized website created just for you:
Personalized Website www.<removed to protect identity>.autoexpiration.com
By neglecting to replace your coverage you will be at risk of being financially liable for any and all repairs after your factory warranty expires. However, you still have time left to activate your service contract on your vehicle before it's too late. No vehicle inspection will be required.
Your file on this vehicle will be deleted and you may no longer be eligible for this offer regarding service coverage after 8/14/2016.
SUMMARY OF TERMS
0% 1.5% 2.75% 3.75% 4.5% 7.85% 9.25% 11.99%
APPROVED N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
1. EXTENSION THROUGH 2019
2. UP TO OR AN ADDITIONAL 100,000 MILES
Platinum Option: Engine, Transmission, Transfer Unit of 4x4, Drive Axle, Assembly, Front End and Rear Suspension, Steering, Air Conditioning Unit, Electronics, Seals, Gaskets, Brake System, and Most Mechanical Parts.
(this was the fine print here --> )
You may have been selected to receive this special limited time offer from Warranty Services - Extended Coverage Department because of information in your public record consumer auto data file. Final acceptance is subject to your ability to meet our full eligibility requirements. This is an advertisement to obtain coverage.
PHONE: 1-877-418-6184 Call No Later Than: 8/14/2016
Operating Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00am to 7:00pm CST & Sat 9:00am to 3:00pm CST
Anyway, sorry for the long article, but I do hope that it will help prevent people from losing their hard-earned dollars to companies such as Safeguard Auto and any other ones out there. I mean, from what I've read, warranties like this are hardly EVER honored. Before agreeing to take an extended warranty outside of your dealership - DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Read the fine print, ask the questions, record the call if you have to (check your local state laws about recording before doing it). Be an informed consumer before giving in to a high-pressure sales call!
If you do get an unsolicited letter, I would recommend:
1) Inform the dealership where you purchased your car so that they can make their customers aware of these
2) Call your state's Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection agency to report it.
3) File a complaint/review with the Better Business Bureau if you can just to let other consumers know what your experience was.
Do your part as a consumer to help other consumers!