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Air Bag Fraud – Where are my Air Bags When I Need Them?

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When considering any used car, it’s crucial to be aware of and take precautions against what seems to be the growing threat of air bag fraud.

NPR’s Weekend Edition just released the results of an investigation that revealed that shifty auto repair shops are charging consumers and insurance companies up to $4000 for air bags that they don’t actually install, and used car dealerships are advertising (and charging for) air bags in cars that don’t have them anymore. Instead of spending the money to properly replace air bags that have been deployed in prior crashes, these businesses are taking the old “let’s not and say we did” approach, leaving air bag compartments empty or in some cases, stuffing them with garbage, and then simply gluing the covers back together.

Experts have found crumpled paper, old sneakers, and empty cigarette boxes crammed into the spaces where air bags were supposed to be.

These same experts note that no one, not even the insurance industry, collects data on the prevalence of air bag fraud. Last January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 255 out of 1,446 fatal crashes, air bags had not been replaced after a previous accident. The NHTSA did not, however, have anyone look into why they were missing.

"We have a life-and-death scam on our hands … just waiting to be discovered," says Jim Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a nonprofit alliance of insurance companies and consumer groups. "The feds have taken a relatively arms-length approach…They’re not involved in the sense that they’re keeping air bag fraud data."

In addition, he says, insurance companies, states and police accident reports generally don’t record enough detail to be meaningful or useful.

"So you have this data black hole," Quiggle says, and it’s hard to make a case for a problem that can’t be quantified. – Liane Hansen and Jenni Bergal, npr.org.

“We have a life-and-death scam
on our hands … just waiting to be discovered,” says Jim Quiggle,
director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a
nonprofit alliance of insurance companies and consumer groups. “The feds have taken a relatively
arms-length approach…They’re not involved in the sense that they’re keeping air
bag fraud data.”

While air bag fraud may not be a quantifiable or actionable problem for the federal government, it is something that consumers must be aware of and acting on now. If you bought a used car without having its airbags inspected by a mechanic, or had airbags re-installed after an accident you were involved in, get your air bags checked right away by a professional you trust.

If you have been the victim of air bag fraud, you may well be entitled to serious legal action.