Scam alert – Laguna Woods. Man in van offering autobody repair services

I admit it, I fell for it.  Anything you might say about the mistakes I made are absolutely correct.  This is what happened.

I had just parked my car in front of Mother’s Market in Laguna Woods (corner of El Toro and Paseo de Valencia).  I saw a van, with the sides painted ON THE SPOT BODYSHOP driving up and down the aisles as if looking for a place to park.  But instead of parking, he headed for the exit to pull out onto El Toro.

That should have been a red flag, but I waved at him to come back, I was interested to get a quote for some work needed on my car.   We negotiated a price, $280, and we agreed I would call him later to meet somewhere to do the work. (I couldn’t at the moment, had an appointment).

I later called the phone number on his card, he answered, and we agreed to meet in front of a Wells Fargo Bank where he would do the job.  He wanted cash, so that would make it convenient for me, but also, I was counting on the bank security cameras in the event something went wrong.  FYI, I have since learned – cameras are only on the ATM machines.

He started the work, taping things off, sanding areas on the car, so I took my dog for a walk.  Because I’m no dummy, I took my car keys!  I came back 30 minutes later, and he was already finished. Huge red flag, but I was tired, and pushed my concern back. He explained that because there was so much moisture in the air (it was then dark), he spread car wax over the painted areas to protect it, and instructed that the next day, I should go to the car wash, wax would dissolve and the car should look great.   You’re shaking your head at my stupidity, aren’t you?  I’m clueless when it comes to paint, car wax, etc., though in my defense, my entire nervous system was more on top of it than I was, sending apprehensive warning signals.

The name this 30ish, very overweight guy gave me was Alex, and he couldn’t have been nicer. He offered to touch up anything that night be unsatisfactory, to give him a call the following week if necessary.

So, the next day at the car wash, I pulled in to where the vacuums are, a few workers speaking Spanish are pointing to the globs of wax around my car.  A manager comes over, and asks if the guy who did this worked from his van, charged me about $300.  He tells me the wax will not dissolve, and that quite a few seniors who lived in the area had brought their cars in with the same situation.  He scraped some wax off, and saw that Alex had sanded down the original paint so the area was black, and placed wax over it so it wasn’t visible.

Apparently, Alex circles around shopping center parking lots where there is a high concentration of seniors, such as Laguna Woods, baiting them to stop him and ask about his services. There’s a peacefulness in his manner so he comes across as sincere.

After the car wash, I called the phone number on the card, a female voice on the outgoing message was friendly, inviting me to leave a message. I called many times over the next few days, no return call, and no live person answering the phone.

I filed a report with the Mission Viejo police, who said they would share the information with Laguna Woods.

Ok, lesson learned, but this one was painful, not only because of the money.  His van had already been nosing out onto El Toro, but nooooo, I flag him to come back, “Please! Rip me off!” 

So now you’re aware, you might mention it to friends.  But if you have independent senior parents living in the area, caution them, but they’ll probably tell you they’d NEVER have autobody work done by someone in a van at a shopping center. 

I even shared my sandwich with him. 😦

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