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National Insurance Crime Bureau

Know Before You Tow!

As we've written in the past tow trucks scams are becoming a major issue across the country. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is warning and educating consumers about unethical and illegal practices among some rogue towing and storage operators and repair shops around the nation.

In our latest episode of Fraud Files we take a look at how states are cracking down on illegal towing fees.

Here's a list of the most recent legislative activity involving towing laws across the country:

  • California – Assembly Bill 1222, Signed Into Law – September 2015
    • Prohibits a towing company from stopping at an accident scene unless summoned to the scene by the owner of the vehicle, owner/operator, or requested by law enforcement
    • Establishing requirements to provide proof that a tow truck driver was summoned to the scene
    • Require towing companies to provide a written estimate of all charges to the vehicle operator and a signature by the vehicle operator before proceeding with the tow and maintaining a cap on the amount of the tow
    • Require towing companies to maintain a record of all towing documents for a period of 3 years and to make those records available for inspection by law enforcement
    • Misdemeanor penalties
  • Illinois – Senate Bill 2261, Signed into Law - August 2016
    • Penalties on towers who illegally solicit accident victims - Class 4 Felony
    • Towers who violate the accident scene solicitation law can be sued by the vehicle owner and/or the owner's insurer.
    • Also created a statewide relocation towing commission tasked with examining the towing laws of the state and to make recommendations
  • Missouri – House Bill 1976 – Law Effective November 2016
    • Prohibits a towing company from stopping at an accident scene unless summoned to the scene by the owner of the vehicle, owner/operator, or requested by law enforcement, unless it's an emergency situation
    • Allow vehicle owners access to storage yard and sets requirements for when storage yards to be open
    • Requires towers to make available upon request a written estimate of all tow-related charges
    • Requires a tow rotation list be maintained and utilized by the Missouri State Police, but local jurisdictions are not mandated to use that list
    • Misdemeanor penalties for 1st offense, felony on 2nd
  • Ohio – House Bill 341, Signed into Law – January 2017
    • Allows a civil action by insurers against a towing company operator to recover a vehicle. The vehicle is released within 2 days of the insurance company paying the "undisputed amount" of the bill from the towing company.
  • Pennsylvania
    • NICB is working with a state lawmaker from the Pittsburgh area on legislation in 2017 to address towing abuses in Pennsylvania. The problem is most prominent in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Anyone with information concerning tow scams can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 1-800-TEL-NICB (1-800-835-6422) or by visiting our web site at www.nicb.org.

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

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 data analytics, investigations, learning and development, government affairs and public affairs. The NICB is supported by more than 1,400 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $525 billion in insurance premiums in 2019, or more than 82% of the nation's property-casualty insurance. That includes more than 95% ($241 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.