If you find yourself stranded at the side of the road and needing a tow the last thing you might expect is a scam artist to come along and take advantage of your vulnerable situation. Regrettably there are some individuals lying in wait for unsuspecting drivers and may pounce on them when they least expect it. Here are some ways not to get taken advantage of if you do find yourself taken in by a tow truck scam artist.
It’s not uncommon to find yourself in a rather bizarre situation should you have a breakdown on a major highway. Some drivers have found that not just one but several tow truck drivers have approached them with that being solicited first. And if you have not already been forewarned about tow truck scam artist you might easily and happily agree to have your vehicle towed up behind the very first truck that drives. Because honestly, what could be wrong with that?
As a matter of fact there are several things wrong with that. Especially if you don’t understand how these types of schemes work. Here are a few tips about what to know if you’re getting a tow in Ontario.
Chasers Aren’t Just Drinks
Chasers of the term that referred to tow trucks that literally chase down drivers at the scene of some kind of accident or roadside breakdown. They get there so fast they’re often there before emergency vehicles or roadside assistance. Seeming like Knights in White armour they offer their towing services when people would least suspect them of any other motive than good. It’s not that they’re terrible people or won’t actually tow your vehicle. It’s that they are knowingly approaching you at a vulnerable time to make a quick buck when there are laws that they are well aware of but they’re breaking. Not only should you be easily taken in by this but you shouldn’t let yourself be intimidated or overwhelmed in any way.
If possible you should decide on your preferred course of action before any tow trucks approach you. This might only be a matter of minutes in a busy location so it’s best to think about it before you find yourself stranded or worse yet in an accident of some kind. If you have a roadside assistance plan or membership that might be your preferred go to plan or you may prefer to call for a tow from a trusted and local tow truck company.
Should You Wait or Not?
Your safety is paramount. You have to think of your own safety first in an emergency situation at the side of the road. If you’re not in immediate danger (for example, you’re in your own driveway or in a parking lot close parentheses, you can wait for a tow truck. If you have a roadside assistance program contact them and sit tight until help arrives. However, if you are in a dangerous situation (such as your car being stranded in the middle of a busy intersection) it may be in your best interest to accept the first tow that arrives. However, you don’t need to be taken advantage of should you be in this compromising situation.
Some Chasers will reassure drivers to that their roadside assistance program (such as CAA) will provide them with a reimbursement no questions asked if they accept the first tow that arrived on scene. However that is not necessarily true. You should verify with your roadside assistance program what their reimbursement policies are. CAA is most likely to reimburse for a tow from another company in the event of an accident where the police specifically instructed you to move your vehicle immediately. Or if there is a significant wait time for CAA. Though the definition of significant is vague, the industry standard is 45 minutes though sometimes longer wait times are posted on their websites. So you need to use your own best judgment. If you accept a tow from another company you can always hope for the best when you request a reimbursement later.
Tow Truck Services Are A Business
If you do choose to accept a quick and easy tow from chaser you need to keep a couple things in mind.
- The tow truck driver may suggest or even insist on taking your vehicle to a specific mechanic or auto body shop so that they can collect a referral fee from the shop. They are not necessarily recommending that location because it’s in your best interest but because it’s in theirs.
- In some municipalities in Ontario it is actually against the law for a tow truck driver to recommend a specific mechanic or repair shop that you did not request first. This is the reason why tow trucks and repair shops tend to inflate their fees to cover themselves in case they have to pay a penalty.
- If you choose to move your vehicle to another shop after receiving the Chasers tow the original shop and tow truck service will still charge you for services rendered. You can imagine this may not be a small amount.
You Are The One In Charge
The Financial Services Commission of Ontario has made it clear that you have the legal right to decide where your vehicle will be taken when receiving a tow. So long as you are not involved in a collision then it is your right to advise the tow truck driver where to take your vehicle. You basically have two choices:
- Your Preferred Auto Body Shop: if you already have a trusted mechanic where work has been done on your vehicle and you know your insurance will cover the work done, it may be in your best interest to Simply have your vehicle towed there. Some insurance policies only reimburse work that is done at an approved location. If you’ve never had to take your vehicle in before then it’s advisable to contact your insurance company as soon as you can to find out if they have a preferred contact for auto body shop where your insurance will cover the work done.
- Home: you may prefer to take your vehicle home either to assess your situation once you had a chance to collect yourself or simply to have the work done by friends are family (or yourself!) at home.
It’s important to understand that if you were involved in a collision of any kind of vehicle will need to be evaluated before it can be repaired. In this case it’s best o speak with your insurance provider as soon as possible if not immediately to be advised. Typically your vehicle will be taken to one of three places:
– A collision Reporting Center
– A secure location
– The nearest police station
Tow Truck Requirements As of 2017
Good news for Ontario drivers as of 2017! The notorious chasers and tow truck scams are in part to blame for the very high rates of auto insurance rates in this province. The provincial government has taken action to protect drivers from these consequences both in the short and long-term by developing new laws.
As of 2017 tow truck drivers are legally required to perform the following actions:
– Provide you with a fully detailed itemized invoice that will explain all the fees pertaining to the Towing and storage of your vehicle
– Fully disclosed any affiliations or kickbacks they receive from other providers such as mechanics are auto body shops
– Provide access to your vehicle once it’s stored fully free of charge to allow you to access your personal belongings
It’s understandable that a tow truck driver showing up only moments after you find yourself needing one is a tempting situation. It’s not that it’s illegal. It’s just that you need to understand what’s going on and how to protect your best interests so you don’t get taken for a ride.