Tow-truck scams to watch out for

Seeing tow trucks parked at my local intersection recently reminded me of a scam whereby tow-truck drivers dupe unsuspecting accident victims into allowing them to tow the victims’ vehicles.

The scam involves the driver telling you he will call your insurance provider for authorisation. Of course, he does no such thing, but you won’t find out until you call your insurer yourself.

In one incident in Johannesburg recently, a driver even passed the phone to the accident victim to confirm she was speaking to her insurer – of course, she was speaking to someone involved in the scam.

So what to do if you’re in an accident and a tow truck shows up? If he is not contracted to your short-term insurance provider, your insurer won’t pay the towing costs, which they would do if the operator was authorised.

What often happens, too, is that the vehicle is towed to a panel beater that is also not authorised, causing further expense to you, the motorist.

Of course, there are many honest, professional tow-truck operators on the road – but you do need to be prepared for those that are out to make a quick buck.

Here are some tips to help you ward off these unscrupulous operators:

  • Find out if your insurance policy benefits include a towing service, and which towing service is authorised by your insurance provider.
  • If your insurer has supplied you with a “Do not tow” sticker, put it on your windscreen or the right-hand side quarter vent window of your vehicle. This will alert tow-truck drivers that your car can only be towed by authorised personnel.
  • Carry the towing assist number of your insurer with you at all times.
  • If you have an accident, contact the designated tow line number provided – a call-centre consultant will give you a reference number and call a tow truck to the scene. If your number and tow-truck operator’s numbers correspond, you’ll know there is no scam involved.
  • Under no circumstances let the tow-truck driver call your insurer for you. Request to use the operator’s phone and dial the number of your towing service yourself.
  • Get the name, telephone number and vehicle registration number of the tow-truck driver and find out the name and location of the panel beater or storage facility your vehicle is being sent to.
  • Finally, Dial Direct’s Bradley Du Chenne advises that if you don’t have tow cover you must ask for a quote from the operator before allowing them to tow your vehicle away. Negotiate the price upfront and get it in writing if possible.



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