National Consumer Protection Week, Day One

Car sales fraud is thriving in Ohio, but more about that in a minute.

Today kicks off National Consumer Protection Week and a series of blogs we'll post to help you protect yourself from getting ripped off by Ohio car dealers, credit and debt problems, identify theft, and more. Each day will be a different topic and we'll give you info and tips and resources so you don't waste your money and you don't get ripped off.

Today, we start off with a warning about the latest scam some Ohio car dealers are pulling on consumers to intimidate them into purchases the consumer normally would think over and, in many cases, refuse to make.

Car dealers call it the "presumptive close."

When you go to buy a car there is a step by step process that many Ohio car dealer puts you through, even though you may not realize it. It starts with what they call the "meet and greet" where they learn what your interests are and your budget is - so that they can land you on a car that fits the bill and they can move you to the next stage. In the midst of the process is a step called the F&I department. Actually the finance office (the F&I department's real purpose) is nothing but another selling point where the dealer tries to make more profit off you. Nothing really wrong with that, except when they try to trick you or intimidate you into buying something you either may not want or don't even know about. They call it a presumptive close.

The Presumptive Close can rip you off before you know it

Because the sales person has already gotten the basic info together, the finance sales person already has everything they need to write up all the sales documents. You can tell you are about to get hit with a presumptive close because all the sale papers are typed up and ready to sign when you are ushered into the office of the finance "manager" (who is really just another sales person) after waiting for sometimes an hour or two (or more) waiting "for the documents to be printed up" or so the sales person said. Actually that stalling time is part of the process - an important part for the dealer because it wears you down and tires you out so that you'll be more anxious to get through the finance process just so you can get out of there and go home.

Honest looks can be deceiving
So you walk in and the sales papers are all set for you to sign. You sit down on one site of the desk and the finance manager is on the other side and he says something like, "okay, we have all your sales documents ready and we'll have you out of here in just a few more minutes. I just need you to sign here and here." And with that starts a process where the car dealer takes maximum advantage of two things.

First, your exhaustion. The dealer knows you are getting tired so now is the time to get you to sign the paperwork because you are less likely to be patient and attentive to what is going on.

Second, your trust. The dealer knows that if they build up your trust from the start with the meet and greet, and friendly helpfulness, you will let down your guard. They call it bonding. Some sales or finance sales persons will even tell you that they too have two little kids they love - just like you too. Or they also love fishing - just like you too. Or they also served in the Marine Corp - just like you too. Etc, etc, etc.

So, don't get exhausted and don't let down your guard. If you do, the presumptive close will rob you of thousands of dollars of your hard earned money before you know it. How does it work? Let's go back to that closing room, what the dealer calls the F&I office.

"I just need you to sign here and here" says the finance salesman. And then he slides a sales document over in front of you and helpfully holds the paper still with one hand while his other hand gives you an ink pen and then points to the line to sign on. If you ask or say ask what the document is, he likely will call it by its name and say something like "this is your sales contract and it says you are buying the car for the $21,000 that we talked about plus tax and title, just sign right down here and we'll get you out of here in a few more minutes." Some of them are really smooth and reassuring. The whole process is called a 5 Finger Close and can rip you off before you even know it.

crooked car salesman
Don't trust him
That's the first step in getting ripped off because the finance sales person had one had on the document holding it still for you, or so you thought, when what they were actually doing was using their hand to hide from you the part of the form that said they were also selling you rust proofing for $1,249 (illegal in Ohio and some other states) or etch "theft guard" for an extra $199 or Gap insurance for another $700 or "key care" for $199 or an extended warranty for $2,000 or something new called "Personal Assistant" for an extra $149 or Credit life insurance or credit disability insurance or unemployment insurance or interior fabric or leather protection or a maintenance package or tire protection, etc, etc, etc.

All of it is a ripoff, a lie, and a scam to steal money from you without you knowing it. So how do you stop it?

Two things. Remember? They want you to get tired, exhausted by the waiting. So don't. There is no reason a car dealer can't print off the sales papers in a matter of minutes if they want to. After all, how fast does your printer at home work? So if it takes more than a few minutes, just leave. Don't ask for permission because they will give you one excuse or another to keep you there. Leave. And what do you do if they have your car keys because they were going to check it out in case you wanted to trade it it (a common ruse to "steal" your car keys so you can't leave without buying their car) - tell them to give you back your keys or you will call the cops. They'll still give you one excuse or another, trying to stall you. So just pull out your cell phone and dial call the police and tell them the car dealer has stolen your car keys and your car. Don't know the police phone number? Dial information and ask for it or use your smartphone to look it up.

Don't have a cell phone with you? Then ask where the pay phone is so you can call the police. If they say they don't have one, then tell them you are going across the street, etc, so you can call the police and you'll be right back. Then do it. Remember, you are playing chicken with them now. If you blink, you get ripped off. They don't want to get the police involved (the owner really hates that), so they may huff and puff, but they will eventually give you back your car keys.

And the second thing? Don't ever let your guard down when a car dealer asks you to sign something. Read every bit of it carefully, front and back. And if you see anything you don't like, then don't sign it. Ask what it means and when they tell you then tell them "okay, so write it down that way on the sales contract so we both understand it." If they are being honest with you, there's no reason they would not write it down. If they are up to no good, they will give you one excuse or another and won't do it.

Walk away from car dealer fraud
Read everything. Question anything. Don't accept any excuses. Make them write it out in plain English. And take an ink pen and line out or strike out anything on the sales papers that you don't like. They will say you can't do that, of course, but you really can, of course. Remember. What the car dealer wants at the end of the day is your money. Nothing else counts. If it comes down to striking out that binding arbitration clause or losing the sale, the car dealer will do what it has to do or they will lose the sale. Check out for more about how car dealers use arbitration to rip people off.

Don't ever be afraid to walk away. There are lots of cars for sale at lots of honest car dealers who don't make you sit and wait for hours and who don't try to "buddy up" to you so you'll trust them and let down your guard while they rip you off. When it comes to buying a car nowadays, your walking shoes are your best friend - so don't be afraid to use them.

The presumptive close assumes that if you do notice the extra stuff they "packed" into your deal, that you will go along with it rather than make them redo the paperwork and risk having to wait even longer. Don't fall for it. And don't waste your money. For 9 negotiating tips for buying a car, check out this Avvo Legal Guide by clicking here.

And when all else fails, because they exhausted you and you trusted them and got ripped off anyway? Call us. Helping consumers get their money back is what we do. Everyday. For over 25 years.

Burdge Law Office
Because life is too short to let a car dealer rip you off

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Known nationwide as a leading Lemon Law attorney, Ronald L. Burdge has represented literally thousands of consumers in "lemon" lawsuits and actively co-counsels and coaches other Consumer Law attorneys. From 2005 through 2018, attorney Ronald L. Burdge has been named as the only Lemon Law Ohio Super Lawyer by Law and Politics magazine and Thomson Reuters Corp., Professional Division. Burdge restricts his practice to Lemon Law and Consumer Law cases. The Ohio Super Lawyer results are published annually in the January issue of Cincinnati Magazine. Ronald L. Burdge was named Consumer Law Trial Lawyer of the Year 2004 by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the nation's largest organization of consumer law private and government attorneys. "Your impact on the auto industry has been magnified many times over because of the trail you blazed for others," stated NACA's Executive Director, Will Ogburn. Burdge has represented thousands of consumers in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere since 1978 and is a frequent lecturer to national, state and local Bar Associations and Judicial organizations. Burdge is admitted to Ohio's state and federal courts, Kentucky's state courts, and Indiana's federal courts. Other court admissions are on a "pro hac" temporary, case by cases basis.