Don’t Get Taken for a Ride
It’s no secret that many people have had awful experiences with tow truck drivers and the storage yards they take our cars to. Often using below the belt tactics to trick you into letting them tow your vehicle and then hold them at high ransom until you pay up, is all too common in South Africa.
A regular ploy is to lie about their association with the driver’s insurance company and falsify the authorisation call to the insurer. The often-shocked victim, at this point, parts easily with their vehicle. From here on out, as you can imagine, it’s a complete nightmare. The car is towed to an undisclosed location and when the client follows up with the insurer, they of course discover that no authorisation was given.
This is a situation that many of us are weary of, but what happens if it’s not you that’s tricked – but your insurer. In May this year, a client of a large insurer’s car was involved in quite a serious accident. Her insurer was contacted at the scene of the accident and the agent took command of the authorisation process. A few days later, the young woman phoned her insurer to ascertain the stage of the recovery but was informed that there had been confusion. She was eventually told that the tow truck driver had managed to fool the insurer into thinking that they were one of their associated towing companies. Another week passed and the woman’s insurance company had not recovered the vehicle. The towing company demanded a ransom of R12 000 in lieu of towing and storage fees. The woman escalated the claim to the Head of Client Relations and within three days the car was recovered, and the claim had been settled.
So, what exactly happened at the scene of the accident? How did the call center operator get tricked into thinking that the tow truck driver was from an authorised towing company? Access to information is easy for many people to get their hands on these days and it seems that the towing company had found out exactly who was on the insurer’s authorised towing list and had impersonated one of those companies. The agent believed him and then authorised the tow.
Even though this was the insurers fault, the insured was without a vehicle for nearly three weeks and this seriously impacted her lifestyle. She did receive her vehicle back in the end, but this could have been avoided if she had known the risks associated with the situation.
TAKE NOTE: The RBS tow number is 0861 888 727. Save this number on your phone and make the call yourself, from your own cell phone. If you don’t have one, ask to borrow one from a reliable person. Be wary of over-friendly tow truck drivers that appear ‘out of nowhere’.
If you don’t have car insurance, put the SA Towing and Recovery Association’s (SATRA) number in your phone. As a free service, the association’s staff, who work around the clock, will connect you with a SATRA member in your area and guide you through the whole process.