With the holiday travel season upon us it's time to look at a new scam that may have originated in the Los Angeles area involving tow trucks

Holiday Travel

The holiday travel season is upon us and much as we'd rather not think about it, those overcrowded highways mean the chances of becoming involved in an accident are likely to increase.

But it turns out that under some circumstances, the damage to your vehicle may be the least of your worries – at least that's the latest word from both the Los Angeles Police Department and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

Bandit Tow Truck Scams

According to both those agencies, a number of unauthorized tow truck drivers in and around Los Angeles have been monitoring police radios and responding, unrequested, to the scene of accidents.
Steer Clear of Bandit Tow Trucks

Once the vehicle's owners sign a release, instead of towing the vehicles involved to a destination the owners requested the drivers "tow them to body shops or storage facilities where they are held hostage until the motorists and their insurance companies pay inflated towing, storage and possibly repair charges to get the vehicle back."

According to Lieutenant Chris Waters, commanding officer of the Commission Investigation Division, "They often arrive before our officers and pressure the accident victim to sign a release that allows them to take the damaged vehicle," she added. "Once that form is signed and the vehicle is towed, getting it back is expensive."

So how expensive can it get? "Towing charges, which should amount to a few hundred dollars, often skyrocket to a few thousand dollars once the bandit tow truck operator hauls the vehicle away from the accident scene," said NICB Special Agent Doreen Sanchez.

Tips to Avoid Bandit Tow Trucks

Drivers can avoid finding themselves in this situation by following these tips:

  • Never allow an unknown tow truck operator to tow your vehicle. If you did not request it, reject it!
  • If you are in a non-injury accident, contact the police and your insurance company or motor club to request an authorized tow truck.
  • Your insurance company or road side service should provide the name of the tow truck company and expected arrival time. If a tow truck arrives unexpectedly, a call back to the road side service center should be considered to confirm the tow company is the correct company dispatched.

The Bottom Line

If you're involved in an accident, be sure to check with the police and/or contact your insurance company before authorizing anyone to tow your vehicle.