Consumer Advice: Car Repairs, Insurance

If you've been scammed, ripped off, taken to the cleaners, or you're just worried about becoming a victim, Good Morning America's Consumer Correspondent can help.

In the first installment of his new series "Greg Hunter to the Rescue," Hunter offers valuable consumer advice on car repair, debt consolidation, e-mail spam and auto insurance for teens. Check out his Q and A below before you spend another dollar of your hard-earned money.

Q: "Why is it that women are treated differently by mechanics and car dealerships?" Ethel, New York City

A: Ever since I became a consumer reporter, women have been calling me and e-mailing me about being ripped off at auto shops. First, you should find a mechanic before you really need one. Don't put yourself in a desperate situation. Shop around before you choose one. Poll your co-workers, neighbors and friends about their experiences with their mechanics. Ask whether they had their car repaired in a timely manner, if they were overcharged, and if the mechanic stood behind their work. Look for a shop that has experience working with your car's make and model. Before you go to a mechanic to have your car repaired, make a list of what you'd like them to look at. Treat it as if it's a doctor's appointment. Make sure you get a written estimate of all charges before the work is done and ask them to give you a time estimate as well.

Q: I got a call from a debt consolidation telemarketer wanting me to consolidate my loans for a fee. i almost did it and i changed my mind. was i right to do that? — Patton Family of Cincinnati, Ohio

A: You did the right thing. You don't want to go with a telemarketer who is soliciting you if you are having money problems. Just because a company says it is not-for-profit does not mean you will not get ripped off. If you are trying to get your credit in shape, avoid companies with high up-front fees. Avoid any company charging more than $75 up-front — that's too high, and you should not be paying more than 30 bucks a month for continued help. If you are in really bad shape, a good non-profit debt-consilidation telemarketer should waive all of the fees. Also, the best debt-consolidation companies will teach you how to stay out of debt in the futured. A good place to start your search is the consumer credit counseling service (www.cccsintl.org). Finally, ask how much of your monthly payment goes to paying down your debt. It should 100 percent and the company should be willing to send you a monthly statment on your remaining debt.

Q: My daughter just got her driver's license and we want to know why car insurance is so expensive for teenage drivers? — The Chewinka Family From Faribault, Minn.,

A: Well, here's the bad news: teen drivers are some of the worst on the road. So if your daughter is getting insured it will cost you 50 percent more each year. If your son is behind the wheel, it will cost you 100 percent more each year. However, there are steps you can take to try to keep your insurance payments as low as possible. First, shop around. Insurance prices vary wildly. If your teen is going away to school this fall and it is more than 100 miles from home, tell them them that their wheels need to stay at home. You will get a discount for the time they are not around to drive the car. If your teen is getting good grades, tell the insurance company because most companies will actually give discounts on student's policies if they earn a B average or better. Keep in mind that your teen's choice of car could drive your price through the roof. Sports cars, trucks and SUVs are the most expensive to insure for a teen driver.

Q: And I get a lot of spam on my computer and I was just wondering how I know what is legitimate and what isn't? — Sarah Hart From Cedar Falls, Iowa

A: An e-mail is not legit if they are soliciting your private information. Just delete the e-mail and do not under any circumstances put your private information into an e-mail that you have not asked to receive, even if it comes from what appears to be a reliable source. Never choose the "take me off this list" option at the bottom of the e-mail because it often leads to more spam. If you want to report a spam scam, you can forward the unsolicited e-mail, without opening it, to the federal trade commission at spam@uce.gov