A car accident is a nightmare even if you manage to avoid injury. The smallest fender bender can leave you in total shock. And right when you’re at your most vulnerable, the vultures start to gather: tow truck drivers who will take your car where they’re paid to go – not where you want to go.
Anatomy of a Scam
There are tow truck companies out there that are ready to swoop in to rip you off. They cruise the streets waiting for the next accident, some even listen to police radio frequencies. Then they pounce. Before you’ve even decided if your car is drivable or not, it’s hooked up and on its way to a shop you’ve never heard of.
And that’s not the worst part. Many of these repair shops are complete scam artists. They charge extortionate fees for the tow, “administration”, for storage and even for moving your car on their own lot. If you find out your insurance company doesn’t work with them, they’ll charge you even more to make another trip. And they won’t give you back your car until you pay.
Sound like a “scairy tale”? It’s not. In cities like Ottawa it happens all the time.
Why Do They Do It
Of course, there’s money behind it – lots of money. Towers are offered $200 – $500 (or more in larger cities) for every damaged car they bring in to unethical repair shops. That’s because the repairs are often worth thousands. Naturally, this payoff is added to your bill.
With this kind of money at stake, drivers can swarm at accident scenes, with five or more tow truck drivers gathering, all trying to hound shellshocked drivers into choosing them as fast as they can. They’ve been known to get into arguments with each other during the feeding frenzy. Police have even started charging them.
What to Do When a Tow Truck Driver Approaches You at an Accident Scene
This may be hard for a recent accident victim to do, but try and remember:
- Ottawa By-Law No. 2003 – 530 says that tow trucks can’t come within 100 metres (300 feet) of an accident unless they have been called by you or the other driver. If you didn’t call them, you have no obligation to use them. The Ontario Towing Bill of Rights is a great resource that clearly lays out your rights.
- Decide where you want to have your car taken first. Talk to your insurance company by calling the 1-800 number on your pink vehicle permit. Don’t go to any repair shop recommended by the tow truck driver. If your insurance company gives you a number of choices, call a friend or a family member for a recommendation, or look at online reviews on your phone.
- If your car is drivable, then drive it to your collision repair shop of choice.
- Make sure you carefully read anything a tow truck driver asks you to sign.
- Don’t believe them if they say they “work for the police”.
Some towing operators will say almost anything to try and pressure you into using their service. If you feel pressured by a tow truck driver, trust your instincts. If you ask them to leave and they won’t, talk to the police. If the police are not already at the scene, you should call them as it’s the law to report every accident.
How Bemac is Different
Don’t despair, there are some honest towers left. Bemac has its own hassle-free towing service that comes only when you call! Our towers don’t randomly cruise the streets – they’re too busy with legitimate work.
Bemac is recommended by all Canadian insurance companies. If you’ve been in an accident and would like to be towed to our facility for a damage assessment and estimate, just call our towing hotline at: