Unsuspecting drivers in the Chicago and Houston areas are scammed out of hundreds to thousands of dollars due to the deceitful deeds of tow truck drivers, according to special agents of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. The NICB is warning consumers about dishonest tow truck drivers through PSAs and billboard ads in the two regions.
Following an accident, many drivers are understandably shaken by the experience. The scam is designed to get drivers to sign blank documents to “authorize” the tow. After that, the sky’s the limit when adding other charges and your signature demonstrates your agreement. In many cases, tow companies are associated with or even operated by auto body repair facilities and collaborate to add extra charges onto a tow bill for services not performed or unnecessary.
“We have seen instances in which tow truck drivers have become belligerent with accident victims,” said Fred Lohmann, director of operations for the Southwest Region of the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Any legitimate tow operator will satisfy your concerns. An illegitimate one will not.”
The NICB recommends drivers follow these steps to avoid crooked tow truck drivers:
- Never give permission to a tow truck operator who arrives unsolicited to take your vehicle.
- If you or law enforcement did not call a tow truck to the scene, do not deal with that operator.
- Do not provide tow truck operators with your insurance information.
- Do not provide tow truck operators with personal lien holder information.
- Verify tow truck signage is identical to what appears on any documentation the tow truck operator provides (they may say they “work with” your insurance company).
- If the tow truck does not display signage identifying the name of the tow company, ask for company identification.
- If a tow operator’s legitimacy is in doubt, call the police.
- Do not give a tow truck operator permission to tow your vehicle until they provide a printed price list, to include daily storage fees and miscellaneous charges that will apply if they tow your car (if the prices seem too high, ask the police or your insurance company to call a towing service for you) and documentation indicating where the vehicle is being towed if it is not a location of your choosing.