Hamilton

Brantford police warn public of 'high-pressure, fraudulent tactics' from tow truck drivers

Brantford's police service is warning the public of "high-pressure, fraudulent tactics" from tow truck drivers as competition between companies becomes stiffer and more dangerous.

Officers offer tips on how to avoid tow truck scams and what to do when you end up in a collision

Brantford police are warning the public of some tow truck drivers who prey on motorists that don't know their rights around towing. (Angelina King/CBC)

Brantford's police service is warning the public of "high-pressure, fraudulent tactics" from tow truck drivers as competition between companies becomes stiffer and more dangerous.

Police highlight some of the tactics corrupt drivers use and how the public can protect themselves.

One type of driver police make note of is the "chaser." These are tow truck drivers who listen to radio scanners and rush to car wrecks, preying on unsuspecting people who need roadside assistance.

"They will often use high-pressure, fraudulent tactics to obtain business from motorists," police say.

One of those tactics is the "bait and switch."

That's when a motorist is asked to sign forms which, unbeknownst to them, are work orders. The tow truck hauls the vehicle back to the shop and holds it there until they get paid. The price can be hundreds more than usual. If the driver and their insurance company don't pay, the tow shop can sell the car.

"Some chasers have arrangements with dishonest body shops to receive payment for these actions," police said in the release.

WATCH | Police reveal links between organized crime and towing industry

Police reveal links between organized crime and towing industry

3 years ago
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Police in the Toronto area have pulled back the curtain on organized crime in the tow truck industry. They've arrested 20 people, seized hard drugs and a range of weapons, but the real money seems to have been in costly insurance fraud.

One reason for these shifty practices is the intense competition between some tow truck operators. That competition often has ties to organized crime and has led to death.

In Hamilton, police investigated three suspicious overnight fires targeting tow trucks and have warned of chasers in years past.

The outcomes of the competition have been enough to convince Ontario to set up a task force that will examine ways to reform the province's tow truck industry.

What do I do if I get in a car accident?

If motorists end up in a collision, they need to contact their insurance company and note any details that might be necessary for a police report or insurance claim, including:

  • When and where the collision occurred.
  • The make, model and licence plate number of vehicles involved.
  • The name and driver's licence of other drivers involved.
  • The name of their insurance company and policy number.
Police say it's important for motorists to get as much information as they can at the scene of a collision for insurance and police purposes. (Robert Crum/Shutterstock)

And the police should be called if someone is hurt, someone may have broken the law, if a motorists thinks they are the victim of a staged collision, if the damage exceeds $2,000, if there's damage to public property or if the other driver doesn't stay at the scene.

"If it is safe, move your vehicle to the side of the road. If you can't drive your vehicle, turn your hazard lights on or use warning triangles or flares. Taking photos at the scene with your cellphone, if safe to do so, is a good idea," reads the release.

How do I protect myself from dishonest tow truck drivers?

Police have a number of tips to help drivers steer clear of sketchy tow truck drivers.

The first is to know their bill of rights, citing a list made by CAA.

  1. You have the right to decide who can tow your vehicle and to what location (unless otherwise directed by police).
  2. A "permission to tow" form must be signed before towing starts, unless you have an auto club membership.
  3. The towing company must provide you with an itemized invoice before receiving payment.
  4. The final bill cannot be more than 10 per cent above the quoted price.
  5. If you choose, you have the right to pay by credit card.
  6. During business hours, you can access your vehicle to get your personal items, while it is stored at a towing facility.
  7. A tow operator must notify you where your vehicle will be towed.
  8. Tow operators must disclose if they are receiving a financial incentive for towing your vehicle to a particular vehicle storage facility or repair shop.

The next tip for motorists is to know if their insurance policy includes roadside assistance coverage and what the limits are. Knowing how the insurance company handles towing and how much the insurer covers is key.

Competition between tow truck companies has led the province to investigate the entire industry. (CBC)

The release also notes tow truck drivers should show a towing and storage rate sheet listing towing fees, daily fees (if any) and other charges. They should also offer a receipt and should not collect insurance information.

"Some fraudulent tow operators will use this information for additional scams, like calling the victim and pretending to be their insurer or providing it to a health practitioner," reads the release.

Police say motorists should "never" sign a blank contract and always read before signing. Sometimes, the company name on the tow truck doesn't match the documentation.

They add that motorists should turn down offers to store a vehicle in a tow compound unless the insurer allows it and should never agree to a demand for cash payment to release the car without first talking to their insurance company.

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