Watch out for towing scams, warns motorist

Rupert Hill has opened a fraud case claiming his vehicle was towed under fraudulent circumstances.

A Kenilworth man has opened a fraud case, claiming a tow-truck driver tricked him into using a company that then demanded more than R15 000 to release his car.

Rupert Hill is warning motorists to take extra care when dealing with tow-truck drivers after his experience with one who immediately arrived on the scene after a motorcyle delivery man hit the back of his car in Rosmead Avenue, Kenilworth, in December.

“The tow-truck driver immediately asked me who I insure with, which I, in my state of shock, told him,” he said.

According to Mr Hill, the tow-truck driver then produced his phone, claiming Mr Hill’s insurance company was on the line.

“The first mistake I made was assuming that I was speaking to my insurance. They knew everything about my car, like the colour and make, and they asked what tow-truck company was on the scene.”

When Mr Hill said the tow-truck driver was from Emerg24, the person on the phone said he had authority to tow the vehicle.

Mr Hill then went to the police to report the accident, but when he called his insurance company the following day, they told him they were unaware of the accident and it was a “bogus” call.

Tracing Emerg24 to a factory in Ottery, Mr Hill said he had complained to the manager that he had been duped by the firm’s tow-truck driver.

“The manager was not interested in hearing about it. He says that I must pay R15 700 to get my car back.”

According to Mr Hill, this included a R6950 salvage fee, a security fee of R750, an administrative fee of R950, a six-day storage fee of R5100 and R1950 for the use of a rollback tow truck, which he claims was unnecessary for his Hyundai i10 hatchback, as it had a damaged bumper and was still drivable.

Mr Hill said the R25 000-worth of damage to his vehicle was covered by his insurance company, but it only paid R2000 towards the retrieval of the car because it had been an unauthorised tow, leaving him to pay the balance of R13 700.

Mr Hill said he planned to get that money back through the Small Claims Court.

Claremont police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Marnus Fourie confirmed that Mr Hill had reported the accident and had opened a fraud case against the company and the tow-truck driver.

“The case is under investigation and no arrests have been made,” he said.

Using the phone number on Mr Hill’s invoice, the Tatler tried several times to call Emerg24 for comment. Calls at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 1pm on Tuesday February 6 all went unanswered, but we left a detailed voice message. Just after 2pm, a man returned our call, but the call ended abruptly after 10 seconds. We immediately called the number back and a man answered but again the call ended abruptly – at about the point where introduced ourselves and explained the reason for the call. Two further calls to Emerg24 went unanswered and questions we emailed at about 1pm on Tuesday February 6 also failed to get a response by deadline. The Tatler made a final attempt at 9.30am on Wednesday to contact Emerg24, but the person on other end quickly ended the call after we introduced ourselves.

Lieutenant Colonel Fourie says there are several things motorists at an accident scene can do to protect themselves from unscrupulous tow-truck drivers:

  • Have your insurance company sticker displayed on your car.
  • Always have a back-up number of a relative or friend on your person or in your wallet should you be incapacitated.
  • Specify on the scene that your car should not be towed unless you give consent.
  • Take your time, don’t be rushed by anybody. The authorities will keep the scene safe until your breakdown service arrives.
  • Don’t believe anything the tow truck-driver tells you unless you heard it from your insurance company personally.