When you're stranded alongside a dark highway after a car accident, the arrival of a tow truck is a welcome sight.
"There are some real heroes among tow truck operators," Towing and Recovery Association of America Executive Director Harriet Cooley says.
Unfortunately, there are also a few scoundrels determined to take you or your car insurance company for a ride. But you can learn to protect yourself.
Tow truck wreck chasers monitor police and fire scanners and then race to accident scenes to snag the tow before anyone calls for assistance.
Not all wreck chasers are out to cheat you, but some of these tow truck operators take advantage of shaken drivers.
A dishonest operator may tow your car without saying where he or she is taking it. By the time you finally track it down, you owe a bundle in storage fees.
In other cases, tow truck operators may pressure you to let them take the car to a particular body shop, says Robert Passmore, senior director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America.
Some bandit operators work in cahoots with dishonest attorneys, repair shops and medical practitioners to file phony or exaggerated insurance claims.
The tow truck industry is regulated on the state and local level, so laws vary from one jurisdiction to the next, Cooley says. In many big cities, such as Los Angeles, wreck chasing is illegal.
To avoid car-towing scams, you'll have to be a smart consumer. Here are some tips:
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