Protect yourself from Predatory Towing

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in September 2020 as an NMA E-Newsletter #611. If you would like to receive our one-topic weekly E-Newsletter, join the NMA today.

In July, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warned motorists in Chicago and Houston about predatory towing scams. Unfortunately, this sort of fraud can happen anywhere, and at unexpected times. The best protection is to be prepared with knowledge.

Credit: Ruben de Rijcke

The scam usually occurs after an accident. You’re upset, maybe even injured, and probably not thinking clearly. A tow truck driver shows up and seems to provide a necessary service. You sign a form authorizing a tow, and off your car goes. But the form you signed was blank in terms of costs, and this is where the scam comes into play. The towing company can now tack on fees and even additional services that were not performed. And now the tower has your vehicle as collateral and leverage.

National Insurance Crime Bureau spokesman Fred Lohmann said, “We have seen instances in which tow truck drivers become belligerent with accident victims. Any legitimate operator will satisfy your concerns. An illegitimate one will not.”

The NICB provides the following guidance when faced with a towing situation:

  • Never permit an unsolicited tow truck driver to take your vehicle.
  • If you or the police did not call a tow truck to the scene, do not make any deals.
  • Do not give tow truck drivers your insurance or personal lien information.
  • Verify tow truck signage is identical to what appears on the paperwork. If there is no signage, ask for identification.
  • Do not give a tow truck driver permission to tow your vehicle until they provide a printed price list of all tow and storage fees, plus any miscellaneous charges that apply.
  • Also, ask for and receive printed documentation on where the driver will tow your vehicle if it is not a location of your choosing.
  • If you doubt the legitimacy of the operator, call the police.

Consider keeping this list in your vehicle’s glove compartment for reference. You never know when you might need it.

Here are some additional NMA resources for you to check out:

Tell us about your experience with predatory towing. Feel free to make a comment below or check out this post on the NMA Facebook page and begin the conversation.

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