Tow Truck Scams That May Hook Your Vacation Trip, Says Better Business Bureau

July 10, 2014

Motorists traveling this summer face the possibility of a break down or an accident. They also face the possibility of being scammed by a “tow truck bandit”. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says looking for red flags can keep you out of trouble.

It is difficult to be patient when looking for help after an accident or break down. There are dishonest towing operators, aka bandit tow trucks, which use drivers in need of help to benefit their wallets. The tow truck drivers offer people help with their car but then end up charging hefty fees for their services. Taking the time to find a legitimate tow truck business is worth the wait.

“In too many businesses, there are dishonest operations that take advantage of consumers in stressful situations, " said Steve Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Ensure that the business is legitimate and read the fine print before making any decision.”

The BBB offers the following tips to avoid tow truck scams:

  • Be wary of unsolicited help. Don’t deal with tow truck operators who arrive on the scene unannounced. Don’t allow the operator to take your vehicle until you are given a printed invoice. This should include a listing of towing and daily storage fees.
  • Use the police as a resource. If there is a crash, call the police, and only accept help from tow trucks that are contacted by the police. If the police get a truck to tow your vehicle, don’t sign any additional paperwork from the company, as this could allow the company to add extra fees.
  • Know the cost. Ask upfront what the tow will cost and get pricing in writing.
  • Use the vehicle’s Assist call button. Many newer cars are equipped with an emergency call button that quickly connects you with a call center that can dispatch pre-approved service assistance.  
  • Don’t give out personal information. It is dangerous to provide insurance information to tow truck companies, since bandit tow truck operators could use this information for scams.
  • Choose where your car gets towed. Have your car towed to your home or at a repair shop of your choice. This prevents additional fees. Some scam artists take cars to an impound lot instead of a repair shop, which can result in extra storage fees.
  • Use your smartphone. Go to to find an accredited towing company that you can trust.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.