How to avoid tow truck scams

How to avoid tow truck scams

If you’re broken down in the middle of no where, or at night when it’s raining then being stranded and alone can be very scary. Just as you’re fiddling with the car, trying to get it started or attempting to change a flat tire along comes a tow truck – as if it’s just all falling into place. The driver seems friendly enough, so you give him your keys as soon as he hooks up your vehicle and sign the paperwork, telling him where you want him to take your vehicle to. What seems like a lucky coincidence may actually end up becoming a nightmare for you as it turns into a tow truck scam. Here’s what a tow truck scam is, and how you can avoid it.

How, exactly, do they scam you?
These tow truck drivers, sometimes known as chasers, will listen to radios or pay residents in specific areas to let them know when someone is in an accident or broken down. Then they just happen to show up when you’re broken down, even though they already knew you needed help. After the car is hooked to their truck is when the scam starts: they are legitimate tow truck operators but they will do things like charge you huge amounts of money for basic services and refuse to return your car to you unless you pay it.

Here’s how you can avoid these types of scams

Use who you call
If you have an insurance policy or car warranty that covers roadside assistance then you will have a toll-free phone number to call and arrange for a tow truck when you need it. The representative that you speak with will tell you the name of the company coming to help and usually the driver’s name too. If you don’t have roadside assistance coverage, then you can call a tow truck company on your own. Either way you will know the name of the company you called, so if someone else shows up tell them you already have someone coming and don’t need their help.

Get it in writing
After you’ve called a tow company and they arrive on scene they will be able to provide you with a printed copy of the services you’re agreeing to. There may be some small addition fees (like extra mileage if it’s slightly longer than planned) but this invoice should include line items for towing, storage (if applicable) and any other fees specific to your tow. Do not hand over the keys to your vehicle, or let them take the vehicle, until you have the price in front of you. Without an amount in writing a company could start charging you for everything stating they performed the services.

Now tow trucks are naturally out and about due to their line of business, so sometimes a legitimate tow truck may just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Though if you still aren’t sure you can tell that driver you have help coming already, and if the driver is not trying to scam you they will understand. If a driver tries to continue pressuring you into using their service instead, or refuses to leave the scene, you can call the police for your safety. In cases where you’re broken down, some tow drivers will prey on you in a vulnerable situation but if you take a couple minutes and go with your instinct you can avoid being scammed for costly towing bills. 

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