Airbag Fraud

Airbags can be bought for $50 to $200 on the black market versus $1000 from an auto parts dealer so they represent a potentially large windfall for thieves and fraudsters.

There are two methods of airbag fraud.

  • The first method is where an auto repair facility replaces a non-deployed airbag with a deployed one. Once the estimate is completed, the repair facility will reinstall the original airbag and keep the money for the replacement. This fraud method is called "he Switch" and results in a 100% profit for the dishonest repair facility.
  • They will also attempt a move known as a "he Pullout" scheme. In this, the repairperson cuts open the airbag'strim cover and pulls out the airbag to make it appear like it has deployed. Once the estimate has been finished, the airbag is simply replaced with one from the black market. Again, the repair facility in question makes a sizable profit.

You can spot airbag fraud in a number of ways.

  • Note the airbag trim cover; it should match color of the original. Also, a deployed airbag's trim cover will be have rough edges while a pulled airbag's trim cover will be smooth from being sliced open.
  • Many times a pulled airbag will be cut when the trim cover is sliced open.
  • Normally, in a front-end collision, the vehicle will sustain damage and both airbags, not just one, will deploy.
  • Airbags will usually not deploy with side or rear-end damage.
  • You can also visually inspect the airbag to make sure its appearance matches that of a deployed airbag and its serial number is the same as that installed during the vehicle's assembly.
  • Make sure that when you turn on your vehicle's ignition system, the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) indicator light comes on and flashes. If you do not see the SRS warning light then that could be a sign of trouble.

You can avoid airbag fraud by being informed and knowing a few things ahead of time.

  • Use a repair shop that has a good reputation or is recommended by your insurance company. Make sure the mechanics it employs are ASE-certified.
  • If possible, have a look at the airbag ahead of time and make sure it is packed in its original container from the manufacturer.
  • If you cannot physically inspect the new airbag, at the very least examine the invoice to verify its source is the manufacturer or parts dealer.