Transmission Scam

You will find this to be a strange story. I have a 98 Explorer XLT OHV V6 that has stranded me twice with a transmission/shifter linkage problem. The first time (about 4 months ago) it was parked in a public parking area. Upon my return to the vehicle, it started fine but when I moved the shift lever from park, it traveled freely with 0 resistance while the transmission remained in Park. I felt luck that a gentleman who was in his vehicle came over to see what the problem was, explaining that he was a mechanic at a Ford dealer in the area. He knew exactly what the problem was an did something under the dash by the steering column. Problem fixed…I didn’t have to call a tow truck, I could go about my business…the strange part was the he mentioned that he had seen $1500 repair bills for the same but mis-diagnosed problem and stated that he was in need of some cash…I was glad to pay him ($80 for 10 minutes work - a bit high) as I felt that his fortuitous presence and assistance had saved me the huge ordeal of getting towed and getting the problem repaired. Now it gets weird. Today, I was parked in front of a store, came out, stuck the key in the ignition, turned it - nothing. I had replaced the battery in early August, the lights worked, so I thought I would try to start it in Neutral. It wouldn’t come out of Park. Strange - I moved the seat back, got out, crawled back in on the floor board and started looking for what might have been the problem back in July. About that time, I heard a voice…are you ready…it was the same Ford mechanic who had fixed it the first time. This time, he found something under the hood. I got the same story about the $1500 repair and that he needed money…I gave him $40 this time (wallet was thin) and I’m thinking…OK, I am either extremely lucky that in spite of what must be at least 1 million to one odds (different part of town, 4 months later), the same guy was there to fix the problem…OR, I am extremely unlucky, was in the wrong place at the wrong time twice and have fallen prey to a very good scam artist who knows the Ford explorer transmission linkage system very well. Any thoughts? BTW…I plan to call the police first thing in the morning.

The vehicle is 13 years old, apparently has multiple problems (normal), and if you both live in the same town and in the same general area why the suspicion?

There has been no violation of criminal law so I hope you realize that after the police get through listening to your tale they will have a big laugh at you after you leave the station.

Hummmmm, let me think - a metropolitan area of several million, 2 parking lots miles apart (and miles from where I live), two transmission linkage failures - with no previous indication of problems - 4 months apart, and the same guy is present…yeah right - the billion to one odds it happened on its own and he was to be there to fix the problem both times - telling the same hard luck stories. Wow - I am one lucky guy. The odds are incredibly small that he would be in the same parking lots at the same time that I was there twice…let alone that I would have the same transmission problem both times (and those are the only times I have ever had a problem with the transmission). He’s got a pretty good scam going…but he needs to keep a log of the license plates of the cars he hits. Repeat targets will be his downfall.

I want to know how the linkage can be disabled from outside a locked car with two dogs inside guarding the interior in broad daylight without attracting attention.

The symptom may be the same but that does not mean for one second the cause of that symptom is the same.

About all I can recommend is that you file a stalking complaint against this miscreant and let us know what El Policia has to say.

Let me guess - you studied statistics in school… I’m interested in what Ford has to say regarding how the linkage can be disabled from outside a locked vehicle. And what the dealer says when I ask if they have a mechanic with the name the “repairman” gave me.

These scams are common. One guy finds out how to disconnect something, waits for the owner, offers to help, fixes it fast, talks about how expensive it is to fix and then asks for money. There was a Chrysler-Dodge minivan trick a few years ago with the neutral safety switch. It was in a lot of newspapers.

Any idea if Chrysler took steps to prevent access to the neutral safety switch from outside a locked vehicle?

Try this some time. Give another person your key and without you present, have them very slowly open your door. The dogs may bark their fool heads off but may calm down with slow movements by the perp. Dogs may not be reliable. Could the perp also be a lock picker or know how to use a Slim Jim?

This could be a new scam, too new for Google.

Next time, ask to see how the repair is done to get better value for your money.

If this happens a third time. Be cordial, have him fix the car and while he’s busy call 911 and don’t leave until a cop arrives. And, get a picture of him with your cell phone camera.

So your well used 13 year old vehicle was fine for 4 months following this parking lot repair and we’re to believe this guy is stalking you the entire time, just waiting for the pre-planned linkage screwup to occur so he could soak you again?
And the first time under the dash and the second time under the hood to boot?

No, I never took statistics nor had any desire to but I am a mechanic (prefer to think of myself as a parts replacer of unparalled magnitude) and do have a mild understanding of how mechanical things work.
Post back tomorrow and let us know what the cops did.

Your either pretty good at making assumptions or my memory is really getting bad…I don’t recall saying anything about being stalked…maybe I’d better reread this thread…

One would have to be quite paranoid to believe that they had stalked by a scam artist for 4 months. Wow…he would have really had to have done his home work to know where I live and what my patterns are…and when I would be at a particular parking lot…or…or…OMG - he’s been following me all this time!!!

I figure the guy works parking lots all over the city to avoid getting caught and that, against large odds, I happened to be in one of his active “work zones” twice and that the 98 Explorers (and maybe more) are easy targets. I’ll post what Ford has to say about preventing linkage tampering.

Please continually revive this thread and keep us informed.

This is quite the mystery and I’m intrigued.

Hey aneely, I think you found out what ok4450 does in his spare time for a little extra cash . . .

The police are not going to laugh at you–there are probably hundreds of people who have fallen for, like you said, a very good scam artist. A professional scam artist. Please keep up posted.

It is a very suspicious coincidence.

“a locked car with two dogs inside”

I hope you had the windows open pretty wide.

Well, here’s a quick question:

The first time this happened, had you accidentally left your car unlocked?
He could have hopped in, popped off the linkage, locked the doors, and then waited for you to arrive.

The main thing is that I doubt he would hunt down a target vehicle, disable it, and then sit there and wait all day until the owner showed up, and then offer his assistance.

What you should do is memorize his vehicle, and see if he’s a regular to the parking lot.
If he is a mechanic at a nearby dealership, why in the world would he be at a public parking lot (I’m imagining a Park and Ride type of place, not a Walmart parking lot).

And the final thing is you can always say no, and call for someone to come help you.

I think he is disabling your car.
That’s way too much of a coincidence to not be a targeted scam.


I hope your comment is meant with a little tongue in cheek. For your information I have aided people in parking lots and on the side of the road more than a few times. At no time did I ever even hint at payment and only on one occasion did I receive any payment at all.
In that one example the guy would not take no for an answer, stuffed 20 in my shirt pocket and walked away.

If your comment about me is serious then you can politely stuff it…

I live Atlanta and just got back from the grocery store. When I got back in my 96 Explorer which I’ve owned since new, the car would not engage the transmission. A man appeared out of nowhere and asked if I had a tranny problem. Funny, because I never got out of the car or said I has a problem. He said he was a mechanic at a Ford dealership and has seen this problem before. After working under the steering column area for about 10 min he got it fixed. He asked for $45 and I gave him $40. I was glad it was fixed and I didn’t need to call a tow truck. But, you want to hear the weird thing about this? This summer about 5 miles away at a different store, my car would not start after I was done shopping. Another man happened to be walking by and said he worked at the same dealership. Quick fix and he asked for $45 and I gave him $20. When I got home today I thought about him and believe he was the same man. Qiute a good scam artist! I quess he was worth the $45. I think older Ford Explorers are easy targets. Both times the man had a Jamaica type accent. By the way, my Explorer never in 14yrs. ever had these problems. Coincidence?

Tongue firmly in cheek. Never meant to be serious.

It does seem kind of difficult to get at something that’s usually on the steering column. Switch it to “some sort of connection”. Thnks for the help, now I won’t get any more calls to fix minivans that I don’t know much about anyway.

This post was in reply to aneely who rightly corrected me as to the location of the neutral safety switch. It somehow ended up down here. Maybe I meant neural safety switch or natural safety switch or normal safety switch.