Tow truck tricks: Don’t get scammed after an accident (CBC Marketplace)

Tow truck tricks: Don’t get scammed after an accident (CBC Marketplace)

>>Gill: This is your “Marketplace”.>>Erica: We’re heading to the scene of an accident with the cops in Ottawa. On the lookout for tow truck drivers’ dirty tricks. This accident just happened, but already seven tow trucks have shown up.>>As soon as the police officers arrive, they scatter just like cockroaches.>>Erica: There goes one. Sergeant John Kiss is a veteran traffic cop.>>It’s bad enough that we have two cars blocking the intersection, but then you got six truck and sometimes the drivers get out of the trucks being aggressive with each other, with the cars involved, with you guys.>>It’s like a pool of sharks. Six tow trucks show up.>>Erica: Why are they so desperate to get here first?>>Collision tow is very lucrative for these companies. It’s worth 6, 7, $800 to tow a vehicle from a collision scene. This is the thing that we’re faced with time and time again day after day.>>Erica: With so much cash at stake, are some tow truck drivers using tricks to take you for a ride? Erin Moore is on her way to work. She’s a makeup artist in Toronto. Suddenly, the car in front stops fast. She rear-ends it. A tow truck quickly shows up. She says no thanks and drives to a side street to exchange info with the other driver. But the tow truck driver follows her.>>He was saying things like, it may look fine; Like, I know it just looks like a little fender bender but if a wheel falls off when you’re driving down the highway and causes someone else to crash, that’s on you.>>Erica: So Erin agrees to be towed to the collision reporting centre but somehow the tow truck driver first takes her to the wrong one, an extra hour of towing. Then he recommends he take her car here to Taurus Auto Collision.>>I’m feverishly looking online for reviews on this place, and I’m not finding anything good.>>Erica: Erin wants to find out where her insurance company wants her to go, but the tow truck driver takes her car around back. She texts a friend to come help>>Not to sound like the damsel in distress, but I wanted my guy friend there to lay down the law and say give her her car back.>>Erica: But when her friend shows up, the owner locks the gate.>>At that point she was saying well, you know what? That’s not a $250 tow anymore. And she starts upping it.>>Erica: They finally negotiate a deal to get the car back. Over $700 in cash. Turns out, all that extra towing adds up to $217 for mileage plus 250 for the tow. 60 for storage. And just to tow her car from the back of the autobody shop out to the street, an extra $103.>>I felt duped. I felt stupid. I felt tricked. (police radio) >>Erica: Who else will get tricked? We’re back on the road, in an unmarked car, monitoring a special police feed for accidents.>>There’s another tow truck here. Look.>>Okay, see he’s in a hurry.>>Erica: He is, he is. Aggressive tow trucks have become a safety hazard racing to accidents.>>Ooh look at that.>>Blocking emergency crews. That’s why Ottawa has got a bylaw. Tow trucks can’t come within 100 metres of an accident unless they’re called by the cops or a driver. They can be fined $190.>>Hey.>>How are ya?>>What are you doing here?>>What AM I doing? I was going home, actually.>>What does the bylaw say?>>Not to be within a hundred metres.>>How close are you to the collision scene?>>I think this is more than a hundred metres.>>Buy yourself a tape measure and find out — >>I don’t need to buy myself a tape measure. You could tape measure it right now.>>Erica: While Kiss goes to pace it out… is it very competitive trying to get these tows?>>It comes down to almost a race. And to how well you are good at talking to somebody and kind of, y’know getting them to believe whatever you can say.>>Erica: After measuring, sergeant Kiss says this driver is too close.>>50 paces from here.>>I’m not going to argue –>>Don’t argue because if you want me too I’ll go get a tape measure and charge you.>>– That’s what I’m saying>>– So move on. Go.>>Erica: The tow truck driver starts to drive away but then stops. Walks back to us.>>Is he looking for a bylaw ticket? Go ahead.>>The other accident that I was on the other day, I got a ticket. The other gentleman didn’t.>>I wasn’t there, but I can tell you what all the officers are being told to do. At a collision scene enforce the bylaw. We’ve got never-ending public complaints about what’s happening at collision scenes because it’s out of control.>>Erica: Arguing with police? Risking safety to get to an accident? We’re about to learn why for some tow truck drivers it’s worth it. [ ♪♪ ] Fitness trainer Sahil Mulla is driving his sports car just outside Toronto when suddenly he’s rear-ended.>>Tow truck drivers, they showed up within 5, 10 minutes. I was in shock a little bit, obviously. So the tow truck guy’s like, I’ll help you out, no worries. They made me feel all safe and stuff.>>Erica: Sahil asked where he should take his car.>>There’s this Lyons Autobody Shop, I get my car fixed there all the time. They’re awesome. Just take it there, leave the car there, because it was a Saturday, and they said on Monday you can talk to your insurance.>>Erica: But on Monday when he tries to get his car moved to a shop his insurance company prefers, Lyons wants whopping storage fees for two days 8,000 bucks. He’s stuck.>>That’s when I realized something was really wrong. I went online, I did my research.>>Erica: The reviews aren’t exactly comforting. “Do not take your business to them.” “They held the car hostage.” “Do not let them touch your car.” The repairs are only supposed to take a month. (phone ringing)>>Hi there. Could I talk to Brian please?>>Erica: Three months later he’s still trying to get his car back. Lyons says parts have been delayed.>>Erica: Finally what he’s been waiting to hear.>>For sure today, though, right?>>Erica: But an hour later Lyons calls back. Now they say Sahil can’t have his car. Seems his insurance company won’t pay the hefty Bill. So he gives them a call. His insurance agent says Lyons isn’t being very cooperative.>>I think they’re hanging onto my car as leverage.>>Okay.>>Erica: He waits, anxious about his car.>>Hello?>>Don’t get taken for a ride, get hooked onmarketplace.[ ♪♪ ]>>Erica: Three months after his accident, Sahil Mulla is still trying to get his car back from the garage it was towed to.>>I’m being serious about getting my car back, and I’ll do whatever it takes.>>Erica: He heads into Lyons Autobody.>>Erica: Secretly recording on his phone.>>Erica: How’s that for customer service? Sahil now wishes he hadn’t let the tow truck driver talk him into taking his car to Lyons. Why would a tow truck operator take a driver to a particular autobody shop?>>It’s well-known that in certain elements of the towing industry and autobody shops the autobody shops will give kickbacks to tow truck drivers for bringing them the business.>>Erica: So they’re getting money for steering drivers to a particular repair shop?>>Oh, yes absolutely. That’s not uncommon or new. I’ve heard a 500 to a thousand dollars.>>Erica: That’s a lot of money. What’s in it for the auto body shop?>>Well they get the lucrative repair contract. When the average car can run 40, $50,000 new, it’s nothing to run up a 10,15, $20,000 repair bill, what’s 500 or a thousand of that given to the tow truck driver that brings them the business?>>Erica: easy to see why some tow truck drivers are desperate to get you hooked. Back on our ride-along…>>That’s nearby. We’ll go check that one out.>>Erica: Another accident comes across the police feed.>>It’s up there. Looks like there’s tow trucks there too.>>Erica: Remember Ottawa’s bylaw says tow trucks aren’t allowed within 100 metres of an accident unless they’ve been called to the scene.>>What are you doing here?>>Trying to make a living, sir. I have five kids to support.>>Go and sit in your truck. Go and sit in your truck. Go>>Excuse me, sir.>>Erica: Just wondering did they call you to this accident? This person in the accident?>>What’s the point you guys following us everywhere and asking questions?>>Erica: We’re wondering if you’re following the bylaw. So you just showed up here without him actually calling you in?>>Did you call this tow truck to the scene?>>No, he said he works for the police.>>He told you he worked for the police and he showed up here by himself.>>Yeah.>>Okay, so this tow truck showed up at the scene. He said that he works with us. And he’s about to hook up to this gentleman’s car, which apart from the cosmetic damage of the bumper missing certainly seems to be drivable at this stage. What do you feel about driving your car?>>I can drive it.>>There you go.>>Erica: Drivable? Not the message they get from the tow truck driver.>>He just was getting ready to tow it and then that police officer showed up.>>Erica: So If the police officer hadn’t shown up, would you have let him tow your car?>>Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t have known better.>>Erica: Looks like we helped this couple avoid a tow trick in the nick of time. But wait a second.>>Here’s another tow truck. What are you doing here?>>What I’m doing?>>Yeah. What’s the bylaw say?>>100 feet.>>100 metres.>>Metres?>>Yeah. 300 feet. I think you’re closer than that.>>Erica: While this guy tries to scoop some business, the first tow truck driver takes off. The previous driver here recommended that this car be towed. And now he’s taking off. This car doesn’t need to be towed.>>Actually he run away from ticket. I came here to see accident. Yes, I want to tow accident. Because I have two kids. I have, like, a property tax to pay.>>Erica: So how much money is this little fender bender worth? If you bring it to a particular body shop, what kind of commission do you get from the body shop for bringing them business?>>Me personally I don’t deal with that stuff. I know many body shops they pay money to bring them accidents. Some people they pay 2 to $500. Yes. They pay. The body shop, they pay the tow truck.>>Erica: Have you ever been offered that commission?>>I been offered, but I refuse.>>Erica: How much were they offering?>>They offer me $300 yes.>>Gill: This is your “Marketplace”. [ ♪♪ ]>>Erica: We’re revealing how you can protect yourself from tow tricks. It’s been nothing but headaches for Sahil Mulla since his car was towed after an accident. He’s waited three months to get it fixed. Battled bad customer service. Now he’s on his way back to Lyons Autobody.>>Hopefully today I will walk out with my car.>>Erica: This time with an insurance check for over $13,000.>>Money talks. I’m hoping money will be the reason they’ll release the vehicle today. If they pull something, it’s going to be another fight.>>Erica: We go in with him, hidden cameras rolling.>>Erica: Out comes the owner, John Lyons.>>Erica: After three months, the body shop damages the car?>>Erica: Sahil can’t believe it.>>If you look at it, it’s not good. It makes me angry. How do you have a ding on a car before a customer is supposed to pick it up? I wouldn’t tell anybody to go to this shop. Ever. I don’t know how they’re in business. They rely on tow trucks I guess.>>Erica: With that kind of service why would a tow truck driver suggest anyone take their car to Lyons? We check out the company that towed Sahil’s car, Credit Valley Towing. They’re tow truck driver just said Lyons was a good shop. But look at all those Lyons tow trucks. What’s the deal?>>Hi, is this Mr. Zeineh?>>Erica: To find out, a “Marketplace” staffer gives Credit Valley a call.>>When you take the vehicle to different autobody shops, do you guys sometimes get referral fees?>>There’s an autobody shop called Lyons. Do you work with them? I notice that on the website–>>You do? Do you have an arrangement with them?>>So do they give you referral fees for bringing vehicles to them?>>Erica: Lyons doesn’t want to talk to us on camera. So we pay them a visit. Brian Majocha is the manager who handled Sahil’s car. Erica Johnson from “Marketplace”. We wanted to talk about a customer — >>You gotta shut the cameras off.>>Erica: Well, we have a couple questions — >>No comment. John will be back on Monday. You can speak to him at that time.>>Erica: What’s your position here? Aren’t you a manager?>>Yes.>>Erica: So, we’re curious about your relationship with tow truck operators.>>There’s no relation. There’s nothing. So okay.>>Erica: Are you paying tow truck drivers to bring customers here?>>No. Have a good day.>>Erica: Shouldn’t people know when they’re brought here that tow truck drivers a secretly benefiting? A manager who can’t answer anything. [ ♪♪ ]>>Erica: Keeping people in the dark might explain why Erin Moore didn’t know her tow truck driver was also working for the body shop she got towed to. It’s been more than a year since she had to pay over $700 to get her car away from Taurus Auto Collision. A tow Erin didn’t even need. Taurus tells us they have no recollection of Erin, her car or the dispute. And that the tow truck driver doesn’t work there anymore.>>Hopefully people see what happened to me and they’ll become more aware that they don’t let it happen to them.>>Erica: It was a hard lesson for Erin. But there was a silver lining. That friend she called to help rescue her car was so sweet, he’s now her sweetie. For years now, the Ontario government has been promising new rules to protect people. Now due sometime next year. If you’re in a crash, don’t get hooked. Call the 1-800 number on youret insurance slip and get advice on where to get towed so you’re not at the whim of tow tricks.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Damn buying a new vehicle sounds better then going to repair shop….. if a the repair shop says they not giving back the vehicle cause of 20,000 dollars bill for hostage, I would just report the company for stealing my vehicle.

  2. Here in Arizona I had a lot of problems with the towing companies. I contacted the head head of highway patrol they are the ones that issue the inspections all over the state to allow them legal towing. I always start from the top because working from the bottom doesn’t work i. Saying I’m sure every state works about the same somebody authorizes their permits to allow them to be in towing. But besides that every individual should have common sense enough and practice looking for a RS statues Arizona revised Jack use whatever state radios it starts with the first letter of the state and revised statues Dan look up the civil rules or criminal rules good Lord just because you think you don’t break the law doesn’t matter here you are being innocent liable for not having in common sense. We should all, all practice knowing our statues. Tell Chuck drivers are one of the worst to rip you off. Private property they have no business trying to tell you off. Private property is all shopping centers somebody’s front house or house you know parking lot just check your loss.

  3. They need the City of Houston Tow & Go law:

    Stalled vehicles on Houston’s freeways will be towed to a nearby safe location off the freeway at no cost to the motorist.
    If your vehicle has a good spare and a jack, the wrecker driver will change your flat tire at no cost.
    If you wish to be towed to your home or another location, the City of Houston’s non-consent tow fee applies, which is currently $175.50 for the first 20 miles, and 2% per mile thereafter.

    Your vehicle can be towed to a nearby storage lot, where it will be stored at no cost for up to 48 hours. Storage fees will begin to accrue after 48 hours.

    And, I still have AAA for free towing limited to 7 miles in the city.

  4. Honestly don’t know how this place is open… only problem with civilized countries…. you can’t get back at someone without being “unlawful yourself” and everyone’s too scared to do anything


  6. I don't know how they do it in Canada that sounds like a screwed-up system I'm a tow truck driver in Florida if your car is involved in an accident depending on which agency handles it be it a State Trooper or a local police officer we're on a rotation system if they deem your car undriveable they'll call us we'll pick it up the rates are set by them either the county or the state you do also have the ability to have it towed to your house but you have to pay upfront at the drop off if you want your insurance to handle it then the car will come to our yard the appraiser will come look at the car and then they'll either get another tow truck company to tow it off to be scrapped or to be taken to a body shop maybe you need to talk to your legislators better organize that mess

  7. Similar shady practices occur in the US. While on vacation in Idaho, I had my truck breakdown on a hill on a weekend evening and was fortunate enough to have a call relayed to a friend nearby for him to call a tow truck for me. He called an acquaintance who owned a tow shop to come and get me. The tow truck arrived and we negotiated a $300 tow down the hill to my friends house. Once my truck was on their flat bed and we were half way down the hill, the driver informed me that he would need an additional $200 to complete the tow or he would be taking the truck to his gated storage yard. After giving the jerk the $300 cash that we agreed on earlier, and knowing that was all I had, short of gas money to get back home, he kept threatening to put it in his impound yard until I paid up, to now include storage fees. He pressed hard for me to write a post-dated check but I refused stating I didn't have my checkbook with me. After a long go discussion he finally agreed to tow the truck to my friend's house and that I would send him the $200 in three weeks, which I agreed to. With the tow completed and the driver leaving, my son and I told my friend about what had happened. We all agreed that it was banditry and I should not pay. So I didn't, and though the tow truck driver knew my phone number, I never heard from him again. It still bothers me, though, that they can get your vehicle on the back of their truck and force you to pay more than agreed, and you have no legal recourse but to pay. It's hostage taking, and the authorities need to legislate a series of checks and balances to keep the business fair.

  8. You see in the US, we have this membership service called AAA (pronounced Triple A) that offers towing services. It is much better to have them tow than other towing businesses because AAA will bring it where you want it

  9. Some people whose parents were actually born in America push sensations like "mouths to feed and what kind of question is that" when they know what kind of question that is somewhere in their malnourished brain. He probably has other good people locked in a trailer truck somewhere. So many leftists are going sympathetically bad…these drivers should come under the scrutiny of child protection investigation. (Why dont food banks distribute condoms) none of them got tickets when driver and company should be disqualified from business and be re-tested for license and mental health certification as per…. had to restart alcoholism at 10:46. The pope loves illegal immigration as sure as Petco will not advertise to spay and neuter your animals. I can imagine the seating at Google censorship boy-girl-boy-girl black white black white. They don't want you to know that Jesus last name wasn't Christ. Anti funny? Comments disabled by the disabled. These cops should return to b usher's at church as they probably can't pace off one meter of what I'm talking about here.

  10. seriously, why would anyone trust a tow truck that just shows up at an accident scene. the majority of them are just pirates.

  11. …i dont mean to be nasty but seriously, how naive are Canadians…trusting a tow truck that just shows up at an accident and takes the car to a shop they 'recommend'…really? i'm just…shocked that anyone would fall for this mess in 2015…

  12. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! that FRS isnt even 25k brand new…and they charged 13k? and the ins company never inspected the damages? wtaf….

  13. The Lyons Body Shop is the garbage little business on Burhamthorpe in Mississauga. Place has been ripping people off for years.

  14. Lousy police failing to do their job and site the crooks immediately, without discussion, to deter this criminal enterprise!

  15. So here's my question: is that Lyons Auto body still in business? If so, that city deserves it. Get that business closed!

  16. Happened to me too my car was drivable but he still wanted to tow it so badly for some reason, he even tried to give me money to tow it☠️☠️

  17. I had to deal with a tow scam right in front of the property I worked Security at from 2012-2014 in Las Vegas. I would warn every driver that pulled in about the two scam, when I started work at 10:00pm, I would end up shutting them down for the night, I cost them so mush money they put a hit out on me, literally. I got shot at on my way to work in August of 2014, but they missed.

  18. Wow! This is so crazy and insane that makes me mad just watching it! Specially since I already something similar happen to me here in Arizona! This tow truck drivers are harsh, pushy, boosy, rude, just to name a few!


  20. Kinda sad she had to call her guy friend to tell them to give ot back. They should just listen lol. But atleast she had someone to call.

  21. Everybody gets kickbacks even lawyers you take them a client they will give you five grand sometimes hell even that police officer doing this report has a Rolex on right around 3:17 in the video probably where he's getting kickbacks.

  22. It sounds like a scam into a scam. If we ever wonder why the insurance in Ontario just look at these clearly criminal practices.

  23. dont u pay yearly in the U.S for road side assistants like i pay £40 a year and if i break down they take me home or to a garage i want

  24. Wow this is crazy!! It is NOT like this in the us. I've been in accidents, you call your insurance, the tow truck companies are contracted with them and insurance contacts them. Then they tow where you tell them to tow to. They're good dudes and mostly honest and helpful.

  25. In my first car wreck omg they took my car so fast I was fine btw but they took its so fast I didn’t get my license plate to return to the dmv now I call the towing company like hey I’d like to retrieve my license plate and they were like well it’s a fee of like $250 to get your personal property do you know they suspended my license due to this issues and it lasted a year before I could even get my license to buy another car I never saw that car again but such a small issue put me in a rat race I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy

  26. I used to drive for a towing company and I never told anyone that needed to go to a body shop where to go because I'm a honest driver. I will ask you where you want to go for a more friendly service.

  27. Cbs do a topic on our states comitting fraud we have the the god given birth right to travel on highways without out license. Supreme court Law of the land there is case law after case law for proof I dont drive I travel point blank period

  28. This happened to me when i was a new driver 25 years ago. It was lyons!!! I threatened them and called the cops and they had to release my car. They are horrible!!!

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