Friday, June 15, 2012

Budget Insurance Brokers has warned that the old scam whereby certain tow truck drivers dupe unsuspecting accident victims into allowing them to tow their vehicles has reared its ugly head again.

According to Thomas Creamer, Telesure MD, “Some tow truck drivers are tricking shocked accident victims into believing that they are authorised to tow their vehicles away from an accident scene when they actually aren’t contracted to the victim’s short-term insurance provider.

“The result is that the service is not paid for by the insurer, who would normally carry the cost of a tow by an authorised towing operator, and victims end up having to fork out the costs from their own pocket.

“In some instances, tow truck drivers have made off with vehicles after victims have signed what appear to be authentic release forms, towing them to their own storage yards and then demanding exorbitant fees to release the vehicles. We have heard reports of customers being charged up to R12 000 for the release of their vehicles.”

Creamer says that the modus operandi tow truck drivers tend to employ is to arrive at the accident scene and offer to call the distraught accident victim’s insurance provider to get authorisation for the tow of the damaged vehicle.

The victim, already distressed, succumbs to this supposed act of kindness and allows the tow truck driver to make the call to their insurance provider on their behalf. Then on the pretence that they have spoken to someone at the insurer and are authorised by the insurer to tow the vehicle, they hitch the vehicle up and tow it away – the victim none the wiser until they themselves make contact with their insurer to confirm the details of the accident and where the vehicle has been towed to.

“It is unfortunate that tricksters take advantage of people when they are caught in a distressing situation, particularly since tow truck drivers, who are usually the first to arrive at an accident scene, have an important role to play in helping victims through an unfamiliar and traumatic experience. It is also unfortunate that reputable tow truck operators get a bad rap thanks to the unscrupulous few,” comments Creamer.

So how can you, as a motorist, avoid being tricked? Thomas Creamer has the following suggestions:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the details of your insurance policy with regards to whether your benefits include a towing service and which towing services are authorised by your insurance provider.
  2. If your insurer has supplied you with a “do not tow” sticker, affix it to your windscreen or the right-hand side quarter vent window of your vehicle. This sticker will alert tow truck operators that your car can only be towed by authorised personnel.
  3. Carry the towing assist number of your insurer with you at all times or refer to the “do not tow” sticker which displays the telephone number of your towing assist line.
  4. If you are involved in an accident and require the services of a tow truck, contact the designated tow line number provided by your insurer. The call centre consultant will give you a reference number and will call a tow truck to the scene. The tow truck driver will be given the same reference number. If your number and the tow truck driver’s number correspond, you know that the tow truck operator is authorised to tow your vehicle.
  5. If you are unable to make the call yourself, don’t permit the tow truck driver to do it for you. Rather request the use of the operator’s phone and dial the number of your designated towing service yourself.
  6. Make sure you 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 yard your vehicle is being transferred to.
  7. If you don’t have tow cover, always ask for a quote from the operator before allowing them to tow your vehicle away. Negotiate the price upfront if possible.

“By following these steps you can rest assured that your vehicle will be towed to the appropriate panel beater or storage yard by an authorised and trustworthy tow truck driver,” concludes Creamer.

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