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NICB Says Some Towing Companies Gouging Sandy Victims

DES PLAINES, Ill., Nov. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says it is receiving reports of price gouging by towing companies and impound lots in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

NICB member companies are already receiving bills with classic signs of price exploitation. For a tow that occurred on October 30, one towing company charged $2,150, which included a $1,250 "recovery" fee in addition to charges for towing, storage and administration.

NICB members report towing firms are hooking up vehicles without the owner's consent and telling the owners that all vehicles are being towed off the street, without any authorization from local authorities. Insurers also report that towing companies are going door to door soliciting business, telling people they will contact the insurance company and handle the expenses. One company even claimed that 50 percent of the charge will go to the American Red Cross.

"These charges are way out of line with reasonable fees and it's akin to someone charging $20 to $30 for a gallon of gas just to take advantage of the situation," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "This kind of outrageous conduct is only adding to the misery and expense incurred by people who have already suffered far too much.

"Law enforcement agencies throughout the area have their hands full with life and death situations and, in most cases, they are not yet processing cars that have been flooded or abandoned following the storm. Before allowing anyone to tow their vehicle, owners should contact their insurance company for assistance with a reliable towing and storage firm so they are not stuck with a bill far above the reasonable charges set forth in their policy. Anyone who suspects they are being overcharged should contact the local authorities or call 1-800-TEL-NICB to report it."

Wehrle noted that vehicle owners who do not have towing or storage coverage under their insurance policy may be at risk of having their cars crushed for scrap and still being on the hook for exorbitant fees long after their cars are gone. 

For tips to avoid towing fraud, click here.

Anyone with information concerning towing fraud, vehicle theft and insurance fraud 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 website at www.nicb.org. Or, iPhone or iPad users can download the NICB Fraud Tips app to make it easy to quickly send a tip and get a response.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to preventing, detecting and defeating insurance fraud and vehicle theft through data analytics, investigations, training, legislative advocacy and public awareness. The NICB is supported by more than 1,100 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $319 billion in insurance premiums in 2010, or approximately 80 percent of the nation's property/casualty insurance. That includes more than 94 percent ($152 billion) of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more visit www.nicb.org.

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SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau

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