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"Recall Warning" email sounds a false alarm.

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TINA.org reader Brent S. said he was alarmed by a recent email from myCarfax that forewarned, “Recall Warning — Keep Your Loved Ones Safe.”

“When I see things like ‘Recall Warning,’ my heart skips a beat because I think, ‘Oh crap, what’s wrong now?” Brent wrote in an email to TINA.org.

But feelings of trepidation soon turned to feelings of frustration when Brent opened the message and found nothing regarding a recall for his vehicle.

Instead, there was information about a contest: “Refer your friends (to myCarfax) and you could win a $100 Visa gift card!” And while text on a cellphone in the email informed him of the massive Takata airbag recall, Brent said the recall did not affect his vehicle. Moreover, clicking on the cellphone brings up a myCarfax referral form.

Brent, who has the myCarfax app, felt betrayed given the ominous-sounding subject line. He had steeled himself for the worse. He contacted TINA.org, which contacted Carfax.

“It doesn’t say there’s a recall warning on your car,” said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax, when asked whether the subject line could potentially mislead consumers. “It says ‘Recall Warning.’”

“We’re trying to raise awareness that people have a free tool to look into recalls,” Gamache said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association also offers a free recall look-up tool, which is searchable by Vehicle Identification Number, or VIN.

Carfax says it is giving away one $100 Visa gift card every week until March 24. But before you refer a friend or family member to myCarfax, know that by entering their email on the referral page you are signing them up to receive emails akin to what boiled Brent’s blood. The rules of the giveaway state:

By providing an email address for the person you’re referring, you’re authorizing Carfax to send that person an email with an invitation to use myCarfax.

An invitation that may sound a false alarm.

Find more of our coverage on cars here.


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