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How to protect yourself from tow truck scams

Created date

January 25th, 2011

When standing by the side of the road next to your broken-down vehicle, the sight of a tow truck on the horizon is sure to elicit a sigh of relief. However, that oncoming tow truck just might be an even bigger nightmare than being stranded. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NCIB) reports that tow truck scams are on the rise with claims of inflated towing or storage bills increasing a whopping 103% over the past year.

Thousands of dollars for roadside assistance

Capitalizing on a motorist s desire to quickly get to safety, bandit tow truck operators are patrolling the nation s highways looking for broken-down vehicles. They tow the vehicle to a repair shop, then present the motorist with an outrageously inflated bill, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dollars for roadside assistance. NCIB points out that the overwhelming majority of tow truck operators are honest, hard-working, and ethical, but a small minority of rogue thugs is giving the industry a bad reputation. An accident or a vehicle breakdown is the kind of stressful situation that causes normally savvy consumers to let their guard down. Anxious to get to safety, you may inadvertently give permission to a towing company to move your vehicle without knowing who they are or what they will charge you. The best way to protect yourself is by taking the time to ask questions. Never assume the truck in front of you is the one you called for.

Don t fall for Bandit Tow scam

Allstate Insurance has come up with a list of steps drivers can take to prevent becoming a victim of these Bandit Tow scams:
  • When possible, use a towing operator pre-screened by your motor club or roadside assistance program.
  • Never give a tow truck operator permission to take your car if they weren t called by you or by law enforcement personnel.
  • Do not provide a tow truck operator with your insurance information.
  • Make sure all signage on the truck and documentation provided is identical and consistent.
  • Whenever possible, have your car towed either to your home or a repair shop of your choice to avoid any storage fees or additional fees.
  • Make sure you receive a printed price list that includes daily storage fees and miscellaneous charges as well as printed documentation of where the vehicle will be towed.
  • Make sure you sign below the dollar amount quoted, not necessarily the bottom of the document, because unscrupulous companies could go back and add charges you did not agree to.
  • Always remove personal items and valuables before having your car towed.