Knowing how to identify a professional tow truck operator so you can protect your wallet when your car breaks down

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Tow Truck Driver?” If you’ve recently read the press release from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, I bet the image you conjured up is one of the dishonest tow guy who takes people’s cars when they’re not looking.

Unfortunately, these small sets of bad actors are the ones that get most of the media coverage. The average consumer doesn’t get to see the hard working men and women who answer the call day and night, rain or shine. I am here to say that most towing and roadside operators are honest, dedicated folks who are committed to serving people like you and me every single day.

But how is the average motorist supposed to spot the difference between when a towing operator is there to help, and when they are there to take you for a ride? I’ve put some thoughts together that should help you answer these questions.

The professional tow truck operator arrives when called, either by you, your insurance company, the police, or the HONK roadside assistance app, and clearly identifies themselves when they arrive on scene. They are likely wearing some sort of reflective safety gear for their own protection, and a uniform with their name and their company name on it. More often than not, their truck is clean – a professional operator takes pride in their equipment. You should also be able to look at their truck and quickly identify the company name, phone number, and any applicable license information, including DOT number.

One of the most important things to remember is that a professional operator will never ask you to sign a blank form. In fact, the only thing you should ever sign at the scene of an accident is an “authorization to tow” form. These forms are clearly identifiable and require you to fill in your vehicle’s information, the destination your vehicle will be towed to, and any charges which you may be responsible for, such as storage fees if your vehicle is going to the operator’s facility. Never, ever, ever, sign a blank form!

If someone comes up to you claiming to be the tow operator sent by the police or your insurance and they don’t identify themselves or who they represent, be sure to ask some questions before handing over the keys.

If they have been dispatched by your insurance company, they should have your name and information already. If they were dispatched by the police, the officers on scene should be able to let you know if this is the provider they called or not. If a tow operator asks you to sign anything, make sure you read it over first. Many police towing contracts have a requirement for tow bills to have a “Consumer’s Bill of Rights” printed on the back of them. Be sure to keep an eye out for that information, and if it’s not available, ask the operator or the officer for it. Know exactly what you’re agreeing to before you sign any kind of an authorization, and what charges you may personally be responsible for.

Your everyday, run of the mill tow operator, above all else, is a professional, and treats you with respect. They take the time to explain the process and ensure that you know exactly what is happening with your vehicle.

HONK makes sure to take these things into account when working with providers. Our curated network of Service Providers must pass rigorous background checks and provide proof of insurance prior to joining our Partner Network. We also utilize live monitoring of arrest feeds, county reports, and other proprietary information sites. This kind of continuous monitoring can flag events that could signal trouble, providing the opportunity to prevent fraud before it occurs.

So if you find yourself involved in a roadside incident and need a tow truck, be sure to look out for these things, and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any concerns. Remember, it’s your vehicle, and you have the right not to be taken advantage of!