Howard Denn likes his Prius a great deal and plans to keep it for a while, so when he received a cell phone call about the car, he listened.
"It was a salesman who told me my warranty had just expired, and I needed to buy an extended warranty that covered a long list of things that could go wrong with the car," said Denn.
We don't have a recording of that exact call, but here are a couple similar ones that came in on Finney's personal cell phone. "It is not too late. Please, don't make the mistake of driving without a warranty. You are still eligible to reactivate warranty coverage. These are time sensitive. They must be extended before your vehicle reaches a certain mileage."
And here's one that has been posted on YouTube: "Please listen carefully. This is an important notice regarding your automobile."
"Against my better judgment and when looking at the prospect of driving a fairly new car and having it fail, I decided to go ahead and put it on my credit card," said Denn.
$2,200 Denn found he agreed to and had the paperwork to prove it.
"This is their warranty that they sent me right after I signed up. There will be a service fee of $100 if the contract does not go to full term," said Denn.
"You never agreed to that beforehand," said Finney.
"No," said Denn.
"They can't add a provision to a contract that you didn't agree to," said Finney.
"About 20 different attorney generals are looking at this company for this kind of deception and fraud," said Joe Ridout, from Consumer Action.
Heading up the investigation is the Connecticut attorney general's office, which issued a release saying Great Atlantic and others are involved in an "extended warranty scam" that is "outrageously priced." The Better Business Bureau gives the company an "F". And now the company's web site says it has stopped selling policies, but the calls continue to be received because of copy cats.
"Another whole wrinkle to this is another outfit is calling people in large numbers and claiming their car warranties are about to expire. So it's simply a scam out there either trying to fish for credit card numbers and other pieces of the puzzle to commit identity theft or they are just trying to steal people's money for a worthless warranty," said Rideout.
And there could be dozens of companies. Some offer warranties, others are total rip-offs. Finney's advice is to hang up. It is illegal to make marketing calls to cell phones and it is also illegal to use a robo caller, unless someone is standing by to pick up the phone when you answer.
For Denn it turns out his warranty hadn't expired. He asked for a refund, got the run around, then with 7 On Your Sides' help went through his credit card, requested a charge back and his money was returned.