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Wreck Chasers Are Charging Thousands Of Dollars For Towing Cars; Here's How To Avoid Getting Scammed

The KDKA-TV showed invoices where the wreck chasers charged over $10,000 to tow a car.
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Artem Makarov
Cover Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Artem Makarov

Automobile accidents are a harrowing experience for people as the driver may be dealing with a loss of property, an injury, distressed children or family members or simply missing an important appointment. They may be in a high-stress situation which unfortunately creates a perfect opportunity for scammers to take advantage. In this situation, an unscrupulous towing company usually swoops in to offer help but instead scams their customers with extremely high bills.

As per a CBS report, when an accident happens in Philadelphia a race begins for tow truck companies called “wreck chasers” to get to the site to tow the crashed vehicles. The KDKA-TV showed invoices topping $10,000 to tow a car.

Representative image of a Traffic jam due to accident in Toronto | Getty Images
Traffic jam due to accident in Toronto | Getty Images

In an accident, a person’s car may be damaged, they may be disoriented, or even injured. At this time, one or more tow truck drivers suddenly show up offering to tow their car. If the unsuspecting drivers go with a fraudulent company, it may cost their insurance firm a fortune, even if the vehicle is towed for less than a mile.

Representative image of an accident damaged black Ford Focus | Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong
Getty Images | Photo by Christopher Furlong

These companies could charge thousands for the tow and thousands more in related fees such as recovery fees, gate fees, administrative fees, and storage fees. The CBS report mentions the case of Emily Burton where her insurance company had to pay over $10,000 to just get her car back from the towing firm.

"That's beyond outrageous. That's ripping off your neighbor. That's taking advantage of someone in a difficult time. It's a form of theft in my opinion," said Christopher Sloan with PA Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority, in the CBS report.

First and foremost, people involved in accidents should be aware of their rights. Motorists are not required to get their vehicle towed immediately unless they are blocking traffic directly. They can further call the AAA if they're in the city.

Facade with sign at office of American Automobile Association (AAA) insurance company | Getty Images | Photo by Smith Collection
The office of American Automobile Association (AAA) insurance company | Getty Images | Photo by Smith Collection

As per the Pittsburgh police, people can also insist on getting the city’s contracted carrier to avoid being overcharged. Usually, these carriers charge a flat rate for towing and storage which is much less than what malicious towers may charge.

However, if the motorists do not have any option other than the on-scene towers, they should make sure that the company name of the tower along with their address and phone number is painted on the door of their towing vehicle. Further, motorists should avoid signing on a blank invoice permitting them to tow the vehicle without listing all fees and their costs.

In the report, Sgt. Detective Thomas Huerbin of the Pittsburgh Police Auto Squad, says that people are entitled to know exactly what the fees are going to be. Towers need to fill that in the invoice before the customers sign anything. In case the motorists miss checking all the charges, it is their insurance company that ends up bearing the brunt of the inflated charges.

The insurance lobby cautions the drivers from towers who rush to the incident and compete to get the vehicle towed. However, it says that it is indeed safe to place the vehicle in the hands of a tower that does not seem to coerce the driver into signing off immediately.

In the past, wreck chasers have been involved in some near-deadly conflicts. Recently, a tow truck driver was shot and paralyzed by another competing tower on Washington Boulevard. Another incident where a towing pair of a father and son were sentenced for a shootout that ended up wounding a bystander.