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), texting keyword “fraud” to TIP411 (847411) or by visiting our web site at www.nicb.org.

Warming Up That Vehicle May Lead to a Ticket

keysincarnicbAs frigid temperatures and wintry blasts have hit a large section of the nation, drivers are increasingly “puffing” – warming up their parked vehicles before heading out on the road. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) warns that leaving an unlocked car running with the keys or fob inside can lead to two unwanted scenarios.

First, it makes your vehicle a prime target for an opportunistic car thief. In fact, one of out every eight vehicles stolen in 2015 had the keys or fob left inside. That can cost you a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on your level of theft insurance.

Second, in an effort to reduce unnecessary thefts, many states and municipalities have passed laws banning “puffing.” It’s illegal to leave the car running and unlocked, even in your driveway. Remote starters that allow you to start the engine while the car is safely locked up without the keys are usually considered a safe alternative.

“Getting a warning or a ticket is preferable to having your car stolen,” said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. “As we’ve reported previously, 57,000 vehicles were stolen in one year with the keys left inside. That’s one every six-and-a-half minutes. And when you add up the costs of replacing those vehicles, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those cars are not insured against theft and the owner is left holding the bag and paying for a new car.”

NICB recently produced new public service announcements related to this issue and they are now airing on media outlets around the country. Here are the links to view them: Leaving Your Keys in Your Vehicle and Warming Up Your Car.

To view a list of states where it is illegal to leave a vehicle unattended while running click here.

New Law in Effect for Scrap Metal Dealers in Ohio

Scrap-metal-recycling-e1298959869890Ohio has issued a statewide implementation of how scrap metal dealers enter data from now on.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, since February 1st registered scrap dealers have been required to cross-check the information of sellers with the state’s “Do Not Buy List” of nearly 300,000 theft convictions compiled by Ohio courts.

The new rules require registered scrap metal dealers to log data in a central repository, making it available to law enforcement statewide via the Internet. This data base will have a list of all business transaction, photos of the sellers and what vehicles were a part in the transactions.

According to an NICB report Ohio ranks first in the U.S. in metal theft claims to insurance companies.

Video courtesy of the Journal-News.