BEWARE THE TOW-TRUCKERS: MUA managing director Christelle Fourie (inset) says road users should be alert for unscrupulous tow-truck drivers, especially those that request cash upfront. image: Wheels24 / Shutterstock
Attempts to unveil how unscrupulous tow-truck drivers operate in their efforts to commit fraud once again raises the issue of the negative effect it has on road users and the insurance industry.
MUA Insurance Acceptances reports that tow-truck drivers modify unroadworthy vehicles to appear as if they were roadworthy at the time of a crash in an effort to defraud insurance companies.
MUA managing director Christelle Fourie (pictured above) said that in the event of an unroadworthy vehicle crashing it was most likely that the insurance provider would reject the driver's insurance claim.
Fourie said: “Conducting unlawful activities to make the vehicle appear roadworthy can be considered as insurance fraud and the consumer can face serious financial and legal repercussions. While there are many reputable tow-truck drivers, there are also dishonest drivers who may take the motor vehicle to an unauthorised holding area where an inflated fee is required to obtain the vehicle.”
Fourie said that there was no legal protection for road users and they might find themselves being liable for the tow and release of their vehicle, as most insurance policies restrict cover in these instances.
In most cases, insurance policies provide cover for the storage and release costs (usually around R2500 depending on the policy. Fourie warns that the policy holder is responsible for the balance of the fee which could range from R6000 to R20 000.
Road users should be wary of tow-truck drivers requiring pre-payment for services.
She said: “It is crucial that consumers make themselves aware of the roadside emergency assistance services and procedures that are offered by their insurance company so they can avoid unnecessary financial repercussions.
"It is common market practice for insurers to cover the full tow and release costs when a policyholder uses services offered by their own insurer.”
Fourie advises that drivers make use of roadside assistance to ensure a reputable tow operator moves their vehicle to an authorised panel-beater.
Unauthorised tow-truck operators may listen to emergency services radio frequencies to discover the location of vehicle crashes in order to arrive on the scene first and secure business.
Fourie said: "On arrival they will try to secure business by approaching the overwhelmed motorist and stating they are approved by their insurance provider. This is not always true so it is better to check directly i.e. use their own mobile phone and/or dial the number to the insurance provider directly.“All road users must make themselves familiar with the procedures for their specific insurer when it comes to motor vehicle accidents in order to avoid unnecessary financial, and emotional, strain associated with using the services of unauthorised tow truck operators.”