Effort Aimed at Educating Consumers on Vehicle Towing/Storage/Repair Issues
Des Plaines, Ill., Dec. 21, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) embarked today on a national campaign to warn and educate consumers about unethical and illegal practices among some rogue towing and storage operators and repair shops around the nation. Beginning this week – and for the next eight weeks – Houston, Texas becomes the first region to display billboards advising drivers to check with their insurers first to avoid getting ripped off.
The overwhelming majority of the nation's towing, storage and repair shop operators are honest, hard-working businesspeople who provide valuable and critical services to consumers. They charge reasonable fees for their work and the NICB wishes them continued success.
However, there are some in the industry -- as in many industries -- who operate over the ethical and legal lines and although a minority, their misdeeds can cast an unfair shadow over the honest operators as well.
Towing, storage and repair facilities are regulated to varying degrees around the nation, but mostly it is a state and local concern. Cities like Houston, for example, have enacted ordinances that help clarify roles and responsibilities within these industries, but problems still exist with those few who persist in operating unethically or outside the law.
Consumers have a responsibility in this process as well. Know your insurance coverage and how your policy will perform in the event you require towing, storage and/or repair services. NICB recommends that you review your auto coverage during every policy renewal or purchase and know what your policy provides. NICB is aware of dozens of cases around the nation where motorists have been charged significant towing and storage fees that could have been averted with some towing savvy.
If after an accident or breakdown your vehicle cannot be driven, you will be anxious to have a towing company move your vehicle to a repair facility or other location. In these stressful situations, you may inadvertently give permission to a towing company to move your vehicle finding out much later that their fees are far beyond what your policy will cover. By "giving permission," you have unknowingly agreed to the fees and may be personally responsible for paying them. These fees can be hundreds of dollars.
In the greater Houston area we have seen many cases where tow operators attempt to take crash vehicles to body shops. In addition, many storage lots also own body shops and attempt to steer cars into their body shops – even if the car is taken to their storage lot initially. At this point, consumers are urged to sign paperwork (prior to speaking with an insurance company) that allows extraordinary fees, such as an administrative fee and a tear-down fee, etc. Oftentimes, a consumer gets charged over $1,800 from a body shop and their car has yet to be repaired. Moreover, if an owner wishes to take their vehicle to a different repair shop at this point, they are charged a steering fee to obtain their car.
NICB suggests the following to help prevent you from becoming involved in a costly towing experience:
- Never give permission to a tow truck operator who arrives unsolicited to take your vehicle.
- If law enforcement has responded to the scene, follow their towing guidance. Do not provide tow truck operators with your insurance information.
- Do not provide tow truck operators with personal lien holder information.
- Determine that the tow truck signage is identical to what appears on any documentation the tow truck operator provides (they may say they "work with" your insurance company).
- If the tow truck does not display signage identifying the name of the tow company, ask for company identification.
- If a tow operator's legitimacy is in doubt, call the police.
While our focus is to prevent insurance fraud, NICB is more concerned with your personal safety. There have been some instances around the country where tow operators have become belligerent with accident victims who challenge or question their intentions. A legitimate tow operator will satisfy your concerns; an illegitimate one will not.
These towing tips are among many included in a downloadable accident fraud and prevention checklist developed by the NICB. It also features tips to assist drivers who are involved in vehicle accidents. This document was created to offer general consumer advice with respect to towing and storage issues occurring around the nation. However, local laws are always controlling and consumers are reminded to follow local law enforcement guidance. The checklist is available at: www.nicb.org/theft_and_fraud_awareness/checklists/checklists.
You are encouraged to visit our Web site and obtain a copy of the checklist. Take the time now to review and become familiar with your insurance policies and your local reporting responsibilities if you are involved in a vehicle accident.
Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422), or by visiting our Web site www.nicb.org. You may also text your information to TIP411, keyword "FRAUD" and remain anonymous if you so desire.
About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through information analysis, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by nearly 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2009, or more than 78 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 93 percent ($151 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.
SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau