When the garage hit him with an overnight stay and a hefty bill, he didn’t think much of it. But after he returned home to check out their handiwork, his suspicions started to peak.
He asked a friend for a favor and secured hidden cameras onto his vehicle. Within 24 hours, he had uncovered a vicious scam that had him calling the cops. There was no way they were getting away with this.
David Sherman was a businessman who spent most of his spare time being an amateur race car driver. He loved cars and knew much more about them than the average joe.
David had his beloved car for years and knew its engine like the back of his hand. So when he started to experience problems, he knew exactly what it was – much to the detriment of the Economy Lube garage.
David checked out his car and was relieved to discover it only needed an oil change. Everything else looked good. He searched online for the nearest garage and found one that looked promising. Economy Lube had a great deal. $20 for an oil change. It was a no-brainer.
He brought his car to them that afternoon.
Getting an oil change is supposed to be a relatively quick job so when the garage told him that they’d need to keep his car overnight, his forehead raised.
The employee continued to tell him that the mechanic had a look at the car and saw some problems. They told him that the car needed a coolant flush, brake fluid system flush, and servicing on the transmission system.
David was surprised he had missed all that when he checked the car. But then again, he didn’t really suspect anything was wrong with those parts so he could have easily overlooked it.
David gave his car over and collected it the next day. They probably would have gotten away with it if they didn’t shock him with the pricey bill.
David was gobsmacked at the $287.00 charge. How did something his $20 oil change turn into this? Even with the extra charges, it still shouldn’t have cost this much.
David thought to himself that he could have done all this himself if he had the right tools. Reluctantly, David paid and went straight home. He was curious to check out their expensive work.
David wasn’t long reviewing his “new and improved” engine when he realized something was very, very wrong. The oil change seemed to have been done alright, but everything else looked completely untouched.
Did they really carry out the other services they charged for? There was only one way to find out for sure.
The next day, David asked his friend to do a favour for him. He asked him to go into the same garage and ask for an oil change to his vehicle. He had a quick look at his friend’s car and gave everything else a thorough inspection. Everything seemed fine.
He set his friend’s car up with a dashcam and a hidden camera under his car and on the inside of his hood, overlooking the engine. He thought he might capture a worker slacking off but he uncovered so much more.
The garage took David’s friend’s car overnight and told him his car needed the exact same thing. A simple oil change had become a hefty bill with a number of other services needed on the car.
There was no way this was just a coincidence. David had checked the car thoroughly and everything was fine. What was this company doing? He was about to find out.
After David’s friend was charged $280, they raced back to David’s to watch the camera footage.
David hit play and watched the mechanic get to work. The further the film played, the more David’s jaw fell to the ground. He watched what the mechanic did in complete shock before his face turned red with anger.
There was no way he wasn’t going to let this company get away with this. Did they have something against David and his friend? Did they know them? If not, why would they do this?
David packed up the evidence and brought it to the cops. If he wanted to bring this big garage chain down, he needed to call in professional help. What did the camera’s capture?
David watched in astonishment as the cameras caught the mechanic changing the oil but carrying out none of the flushes or transmission servicing that they charged for.
In essence, what they did was fraud. And David had a sneaking suspicion this hasn’t just happened to him and his friend. The way the company persuaded to upsell both of the with the exact same speech seemed rehearsed. But what did the cops say?
The cops had their hands full so they put the men in contact with a former fraud chief with the Hamilton police. Mark Simchison built his career dealing with fraudulent behavior.
With a company as big as Economy Lube, they needed to be careful when confronting them. That’s where Simchison’s expertise came in handy. But even he had never seen anything this blatant before.
“If they are … receiving money for services that they did not perform, that you paid for, in all honesty, that’s fraud,” says Simchison. There was no doubt in his mind that this company was dirty. But the problem lay in proving it.
When David and Simonchison confronted the workers, what they said was crazier than their wildest imaginations.
“This is what we were trained to do. Yeh it doesn’t feel great but when your job is to make as much money as you can for the company and you come home with 1 or 2 thousand dollars every week, it’s hard to say no to that”, one worker said.
“It’s bad but we get a lot of people coming in who don’t know anything about their car. It makes our job easier. If we don’t make enough money, we get fired so it’s us or them”, another said.
David confronted the CEO of the company but couldn’t get him to admit any fault. He denied any responsibility for individual workers and said he had no idea any of this was going on. He also agreed that it was fraud and would deal with the situation swiftly.
But David wasn’t convinced. He was going to move to Phase 2.
He let the situation die down a little. The goal was to let the company think they were in the clear.
In a few months, however, David was going to go mercilessly nuclear. He borrowed a friend’s car for the undercover operation. Between David and a couple trusted specialists, they went ahead and made sure everything in the car was fixed, cleaned, and flushed where necessary. There was no way it needed any service whatsoever.
Next, was to install the same camera setup they did last time – but with a few more added for better angles and coverage … and the ability to watch live.
Finally, for the pièce de résistance, David got his mother to go in as the clueless old lady. The trap was bait and set. They would soon find out just how crooked the entire string of garages continued to be, as well as uncover a few more scam angles.
The first visit unfolded exactly how David expected.
The mechanics sent secret smirks to each other when they saw his mother hobble in. Part of him relished the moment, but he also felt a surge of rage. How many people had been scammed so far? It was so wrong. So, what was the final estimate they handed over?
There was the standard song and dance about “flushing” blah, blah, blah. But now where was the “need” to change out the battery for a new one as well as needing a new serpentine belt and air filter. On top of it all, there was a “broken” part that needed replacing.
David grinned as his mother started asking specific questions he had coached her to give. They were a sneaky mixture of stuff he had found online as well as suggestions from the authorities.
It was scam-catching gold. His mother acted stunned and helpless, then asked the first question that would set off a string of incriminating dominos.
“No, you can’t pay with check. We take cash only,” they answered. That was the first red flag. After, when she asked if she could see the broken part, things turned tense.
The mechanic flashed an annoyed glare and outright refused.
“Customers aren’t allowed in the back.” But they script was ready for that too. “Let’s take it out to the front then and you can show me.” The mechanic’s face puckered like he was sucking on a lemon. But it was time to give them want they wanted, so David could move to the final phase.
In the end, they had her pay the bill – which was all part of the plan.
And, just like they expected, the work didn’t get done – except for the belt and air filter – which didn’t even need replacing in the first place. Also, instead of putting in a new battery, they just wiped down the old one to make it look slightly newer. This was getting insane!
One wasn’t enough. David had to bring the entire thing down.
He and his amazing scam-busting team went on to 6 more locations – all from the same company that had scammed him in the first place. The results varied in how much the bill was, but a clear pattern emerged. The cops were going to love this.
There was already an investigation going, but David felt a surge of pride and happiness when the officer’s eyes turned wide. It wasn’t every day they had a sweet case like this handed straight over to them – evidence and all.
The only thing he wanted, besides his money back, was one thing.
He wanted to be there when they confronted the CEO again.
He wanted to watch with satisfaction as they disassembled the man’s life. He wanted to make sure they didn’t hurt anyone else every again. And he wanted to know which other companies were suspected of doing similar things… so he could go after them too.