How tow truck scams work:

You’re involved in a fender bender and a tow truck arrives. The driver says your airbags alerted him, your insurance company called, or an automated system like OnStar dispatched him. The majority of the time, this is not true. He’ll say your insurance is covering the tow—just sign here. You’re distraught, shaken up, and worried, so you do.

By signing, you have allowed the driver to haul your car away. And then it’s gone.

The drivers may say they will take the vehicle to a location of the owner’s choice, but they then take it to an undisclosed body shop that is paying them a kickback. In addition to the exorbitant towing charges, the body shop will add on storage fees while the vehicle sits there as the owner and the insurance company are left in the dark as to where it was taken. All of this is designed to maximize the bill to the consumer. (

How to avoid tow truck scams:

Avoid tow trucks that seem to appear on the scene of an accident from out of nowhere. Many are contracted by vehicle repair shops to bring your car into their shop where they may negotiate a higher rate with your insurance carrier or worse, hold your car until you or your insurance company pay exorbitant fees to get your car out of the shop. Be careful in signing any paperwork if they are not your towing service. Take a photo of the paperwork you sign, so things are not changed after you leave your car in their hands. Also, take a photo of your car on the tow truck (all four corners of your car if possible). Be careful not to authorize any repairs without contacting your insurance company first. You can authorize repairs at a later time.

If you have off-street parking, consider having it towed to your residence. Impound yards can charge you hundreds of dollars per day to store your vehicle and your insurance coverage may not cover for that!

If your vehicle is at an impound yard, make sure you contact your insurance company’s claims department or your insurance agent immediately and find out how soon they can remove your vehicle. Remember, every day that your vehicle is in impound, that is extra money your insurance company or you might need to pay to remove your vehicle.

You have a right to select a body shop of your choice to have your vehicle towed to. However, some insurance policies may include a co-pay on top of a deductible if you take your car to a shop not in your insurance carrier’s body shop network. In any case, your carrier can recommend a body shop in your area. Most recommendations by your insurance company will typically include repair warranties for the life of the car while you own it. However, your carrier may not be able to guarantee any warranty for a non-network shop.

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