Cars never want to break down when it is convenient and when yours decides to do so on the side of the road, it can be frightening. Even worse, you may then be at risk for tow truck scams. These tips can help you avoid being the victim of a deceitful tow truck driver the next time you suffer a breakdown.
Tow Truck Shows Up Within Minutes
There are tow truck drivers who patrol certain sections of highway looking for stranded motorists. If a tow truck miraculously appears just minutes after you have pulled over, they may attempt to scam you. They will be very friendly, offering as much assistance as they can and offer to tow you to a nearby service station. They hook up your car, take your keys and hand you paperwork. However, when you arrive at the station where your car has been taken, they charge you a significant amount of money to get it back, even if they don’t repair your vehicle. In some areas, tow trucks are not permitted to drive around looking for customers, so they hire others to do it for them. Be suspicious of anyone who stops and immediately offers to call a tow for you.
They Insist They Must Take Your Car to a Particular Shop
A tow truck driver who tells you that they must take your car to one particular shop due to a contractual obligation or policy is more than likely attempting to scam you. Legitimate tow truck drivers are willing to take your vehicle wherever you want to go. If it is outside a certain mileage range, the tow may cost more but other than that, they should be willing to take your car to any shop or even to your home if you plan to work on it yourself.
Hooking the Car Without Your Permission
If a tow truck driver arrives and immediately begins to hook up your car without talking to you first, they may be trying to scam you. There are unscrupulous tow truck drivers who will hook up a car and then demand an extremely high payment to tow the car. When you tell them you aren’t paying that fee, they will hold your car hostage, refusing to release it unless you pay them. They are legally required to release your car if you tell them you don’t want them to tow it. If they pull away with your car when you have told them to release it, they can be charged with a crime.
Ask to See the Bill First
Before the tow truck drivers hooks up your car, ask them for an estimate of costs. Although there will be a fee for the tow, there may also be storage fees and many other charges involved. A reputable tow company will provide you information on what the tow will cost as well as any additional fees that may be incurred. Any paperwork handed to you should have pricing information and if it does not, ask for it before they hook up your car.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Many car insurance policies have towing coverage included. If you have towing coverage, the insurance company may suggest a preferred company and, even if you must pay more than the coverage allowed, it will save you overall. You also know that the insurance company has vetted the towing company and the one they recommend will not attempt to scam you. One thing to be wary of is a tow truck driver who is asking for too much personal information, especially insurance information. They may use what you give them to perpetuate other frauds. The same is true with credit card or driver’s license information.
Check the Documentation
Tow trucks should have identifying information on their vehicles. There should be a licensing number and a company name clearly displayed. Be sure that any paperwork you receive matches the information on the truck.
When your car breaks down on the side of the road, you may be tempted to jump at the first offer of assistance that arrives. However, to make sure you are not being scammed, simply thank the individual for stopping by and send them on their way.
What to Do If You Have Been Scammed
In instances where a tow truck driver refuses to leave or release your vehicle, call the police. You can also contact the police if you arrive at the location where your car was taken, and they are demanding an excessive payment for you to get your car back. If you believe you have been scammed, there are also other steps you can take. Contact the Better Business Bureau and the consumer fraud department for your state. You may even be able to get assistance from your insurance company. You may be able to contest any charges if you can prove the tow truck company misrepresented their services, committed flagrant acts of deception or claimed to be with your insurance company or law enforcement. The charges can be contested in civil or small claims court, but you will need to review the law in your state. In some states, once you give signed permission for the tow truck driver to take your car, you may be held liable. Always read anything handed to you before you sign it.
The majority of tow truck drivers are honest, hard-working people with only a handful of them known as tow truck bandits. If your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road, call Elmer’s Auto Body for an honest, reliable tow to or shop. For over 70 years, we have provided auto services with no gimmicks or surprises. When we tow your vehicle, we provide you with details on pricing and will work with your insurance company to handle as much paperwork as we can so you don’t have to. We also offer a wide range of auto body services, from paintless dent repair, bumper repair and windshield replacement. Contact us today by phone or fill out the easy form online to schedule an appointment.