Dateline   |  May 17, 2013

'Wild, Wild Web', Part 4

Chris Hansen put a "mobile mechanic" to the test. 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> the wild, wild web is full of people offering all kinds of services. how about car problems? like around the online classifieds in any city and you'll find plenty of listings for mechanics, even ones that make house calls , like this post in tucson , arizona, for a mobile mechanic promising to do any work your vehicle needs. jeremy may replied to the ad after his car had a serious engine problem.

>> is this the kind of job you could have done yourself?

>> absolutely not.

>> he says two days into the job and after paying him more than $1,000, the mechanic disappeared.

>> he never finished the job. he left our car sitting on jacks.

>> veronica says she had a problem with the same man.

>> he's just a fraudulent mechanic.

>> she says he charged her for a part he never replaced.

>> wait a minute. he did not do the work?

>> no. he's charging people for work that he's not even doing.

>> so who is this mobile mechanic? we want to make an appointment with him. but first we need a car for him to work on. jerrick is an automotive technician who maintains a fleet of cars for a university in the tucson area.

>> what condition is this car in?

>> perfect.

>> perfect until he created one minor problems. he deliberately put in a bad fuse for the car's fuel pump to see if the mobile mechanic would properly spot and repair it. with labor, it might cost $50. with the price of the fuse being the least of it.

>> what does a fuse cost to replace it?

>> if did you it yourself, 15 cents, 20 cents.

>> now it's time to make our appointment.

>> hi. i just saw your auto repair ad on craigslist.

>> a "dateline" staffer calls the mechanic and tells him about our car that won't start. inside this house, we invite our expert and that unhappy customer jeremy to watch what happens. here comes our mobile mechanic now. his name is frank step.

>> hi frank . i'm julie.

>> nice to meet you.

>> nice to meet you. let's see what it's doing.

>> all he needs to do is replace that 15-cent fuse. so frank gets to work.

>> what's he doing now?

>> he's pulling the spark plug out.

>> then 15 minutes after he arrives, frank has a diagnosis.

>> fuel pump is bad.

>> fuel pump is bad?

>> our mechanic says the fuel pump in his car is just fine.

>> it is brand new. it was replaced last month.

>> it's time for me to ask frank a few questions. at first, he thinks i'm a friend of the owner.

>> so what do we got going on here?

>> got no fuel pressure.

>> what do we got to do?

>> needs a pump.

>> this is a 2009 . doesn't it seem a little new for a fuel pump ?

>> they go out whenever they go out.

>> how much will it cost to replace a fuel pump that doesn't need to be relays placed? way more than a 15-cent fuse.

>> what will the job cost?

>> $80 to put it in. the pump is $350.

>> what if i told you, frank , that i could fix this car.

>> you guys know something --

>> by replacing that fuse.

>> you pulled it out?

>> we didn't pull it out. you didn't check it.

>> i did check it.

>> is this some kind of --

>> yeah, frank , i'm chris hansen with "dateline" nbc. we wanted to bring you out and see what would happen if you examined this vehicle.

>> you got me a little flustered.

>> take your time.

>> that's when frank realizes his mistake.

>> we tell frank we still have one more person for him to meet. one of his unhappy customers, jeremy .

>> i guess this is over with, right?

>> well, there's one more thing.

>> what is that?

>> some of the people who have complained about your prior work are very upset.

>> that's good. i hope they are. i'm upset with some of them.

>> really?

>> that's the guy right there.

>> he claims that you never finished the job.

>> i didn't finish the job because we had a problem.

>> what was the problem?

>> have a good day.

>> you don't want to explain yourself?

>> i don't have to explain myself to you.

>> he said jeremy picked a fight by posting warnings about him all over the internet.

>> you got angry with me. i don't need to come back.

>> i'm not violent to you.

>> you did?

>> you owe me $ 1250 .

>> have a good day.

>> at least seven other people complained about your work.

>> frank told us he's had thousands of customers over the years and has had only a handful of complaints. and he's not the only mechanic on the wild, wild web who may not be up to the job. we replied to another tucson listing for a mobile auto tech after seeing complaints about him online. would this mechanic figure out that the only problem is a bad fuse? his name is glenn clancy. he shows up with an assistant.

>> thank you for coming out like last minute.

>> not a problem.

>> they get to work. within ten minutes he has his diagnosis.

>> right now, about 99% positive it's the fuel pump .

>> 99% positive it's the fuel pump .

>> not even doing his basics.

>> just to be sure, we asked one more time.

>> could it be anything else though?

>> no.

>> i have to do something really quick. i'll be right back.

>> now it's time for me to step in.

>> hey guys.

>> hey, how's it going?

>> what does it look like is going on?

>> it looks like to me it's the fuel pump . that's what's going on with it.

>> how much would he charge us to replace a perfectly good fuel pump ?

>> all in, you think what?

>> a job like this, mobile cost about $250 in labor. so $750.

>> $750 for a car that didn't need fixing.

>> glenn , the reason why i'm asking all these questions is because i'm chris hansen with "dateline" nbc.

>> okay.

>> we're doing a story on people who post on craigslist.

>> i thought you looked familiar.

>> yeah?

>> we try and do honest work. we really do.

>> here's the deal. you were willing to charge $750 for something that was a 15-cent problem.

>> no. that's if i was willing -- i was still going to do more diagnostic.

>> this gentleman right here, jerrick, he's a mechanic. this is his car.

>> okay.

>> he just put a brand new fuel pump in it a month ago.

>> okay. i'm done here.

>> glenn 's assistant comes to his partner's defense. the bottom line is, you were willing to charge $750 for a 15-cent problem.

>> he was not done checking. you guys sidelined him. that's the thing.

>> it seemed like you were ready to put in a new fuel pump .

>> i'm sorry, what?

>> what's the lesson in all this? going online to find a mechanic may seem convenient, the old rules still apply. get a recommendation, know who you're dealing with before you make that call. coming up