Predatory Tow Trucks Steal, Sell Cars To Junk Yards

Predatory Tow trucks are prowling about Florida, looking to gin up extra cash by hauling perfectly good cars to salvage yards. The tow truck operators make up to $100,000 each year by preying on seemingly abandoned cars. By the time the rightful owners start asking questions, their cars are already cubes.

Investigators say salvage yards aren’t held responsible as long as they get the proper paperwork.

“At least a title – we have to have the title,” said Heckman.

But because not all salvage yards ask for it and just want to get their hands on the vehicle, investigators say this is a big business. In fact, some thieves can make around $100,000 a year just by bringing in stolen cars.

“There’s a risk when you leave any of your personal property unsecured on the side of the road,” said Gonzalez.

Insurance companies are not receptive to victim’s pleas without proof that the vehicle was stolen. To scare away predators, stay with your car while waiting for a legitimate tow truck. It also helps not to abandon your car on the side of the highway.

Crooked tow truck drivers stealing cars [NBC2]
(Photo: LinBow)


Edit Your Comment

  1. homerjay says:

    Here are your messages:

    You have 30 minutes to move your car.

    You have 10 minutes.

    Your car has been impounded.

    Your car has been crushed into a cube.

    You have 30 minutes to move youe cube.

  2. Kurtz says:

    In Louisiana, an abandoned car must have a warning notice posted on its windshield. The owner then has 48 hours (not including weekends and holidays) to retrieve it before it’s towed to a salvage yard. To my understanding the car must have a sticker for it to be accepted into the salvage yard.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    So the Collier County Sheriff’s department is apparently blameless in this whole story?
    You left your car abandoned while you went to get help (because everyone in SW Fla knows there are no ‘dead zones’ for cell service here)? What are you, stupid?
    Thank the deputy for blaming the consumer and saving us the trouble down here in the comment zone :)

  4. moorie679 says:

    I got an idea….. get a tow truck…. and tow these retard’s tow truck to the junkyard….. then you can have a monopoly on this thing and make millions….

    “Tow Truck Cures, They Dont Want You to Know About”

  5. othium says:

    I parked my car outside of my apartment and had a friend take me to the doctor as I had an emergency appointment. After arriving home late that night with some strong medication, I slep on and off through the weekend. When I came out on Monday morning, my car had been towed for being “parked over 48 hours”. It cost me over $200 to get it away from the impound lot and I still have to pay a $75 dollar ticket. I sure wish my building had permit parking or a lot.

    (It’s REALLY BAD when it get’s some snow on the ground here in Minnesota. The tow trucks come out on “snow emergency” nights and prowl like predators. My buddy’s car was towed illegally and he made the city supervisor pick him up, bring him down to the impound and pay to get it out – AND erase the ticket. All because he had taken photos of his car parked legally before he went inside. He’s my personal hero when it comes to “fighting the man”.)

  6. hn333 says:

    Florida is such a hellhole. I live in Ft Myres, FL and it seems like every crook in book comes to Florida.

  7. FLConsumer says:

    @hn333: Be glad you live there. Having lived in both Ft. Myers/Naples & Tampa, I’ll gladly take the former. Tampa is a sewer. The T stands for TRASH, which most of the area is and the majority of the people are.

    @doctor_cos: I agree totally. While they will never have enough officers to watch everything that goes on in the county, they can certainly help push for laws (and checks/stings at salvage yards) which would prevent this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cars get stolen here and driven over to Miami, which is a whole separate 3rd world country/banana republic within the state of Florida.

  8. Rusted says:

    Nothing new. I heard about this going on in DC some years back. They went after the older larger cars for the value of the steel.

  9. ChaosMotor says:

    I noticed a flat tire as I drove away from my house one day. I parked my car 3 houses down, jumped in a spare vehicle, and took off. That night, there was an ice storm which put a thick blanket of ice on the ground. Two days later, a blizzard struck, and put down nearly a foot of snow.

    Anyone who’s ever changed a tire before knows you cannot, can-not, c.a.n.n.o.t. change a tire safely when the ground is covered in snow and ice – there’s nowhere to firmly brace the jack on the ground.

    The first morning the blizzard broke, I came out to break the ice off the ground and change my tire. My car had been towed. There were drag marks and the tread on the flat tire had visibly been gouged and ripped from the ground where it was frozen to the pavement.

    Cost me $300 to get my car back, when it had been but 3 houses down, during a blizzard and ice storm.

    Real fair.

    But I’m sure someone here can figure out why it was ‘my fault’ and how I could have taken ridiculous, expensive, or extraordinary steps to change that tire when it was below zero with a half inch of ice on the ground covered by nearly a food of snow.

  10. Jean Naimard says:

    Perhaps, one day, people will wake-up to the fact that the whole automobile business, from end-to-end, via the various governments involved, is nothing but the largest scam ever to be foisted upon mankind…

    Cars killed more people than all the wars throughout History, religious or otherwise.

  11. Major-General says:

    @ChaosMotor: Ooh, ooh, I can. But it would require a blowtorch and a shopvac.

  12. XTC46 says:

    In Hawaii to be considered “abandoned” the inspectors drive around to locations people complain about sitting cars, they mark the tires with an arrow in bright orange/red chalk and a corresponding arrow on the ground, and the date. If they come back two days later and the chalk mark is still lined up perfectly, they tow the car.

    Towing cars is a good business, but there are definitely some assholes in it.

  13. Diablo23 says:

    Here is a get tow story. I got back from a six month deployment from over in the Persian Gulf, I was on a carrier. I had a buddy stay the night so I could drive him to the airport an hour before work. We wake up and the car is missing from the parking lot of my apartment complex. I call the cops thinking it was stolen. The Cops show up and as they do, the grounds keeper for the complex shows up. He tells me he had it towed. I asked him why and it turns out that in July, signs were placed on doors warning that cars now needed sticker and he literally added “what have you’ve been living under a rock?” “No, I’ve been in Iraq asshole!” This Norfolk, so when a carrier pulls back in, its in the papers and on the TV. This tool had seven sailors cars towed. The bastards wouldn’t even offer to pay the towing fee for their retarded employee. The worst part, after spending all day and $120 to get my Blazer back, the transmission blew out on me on my way home on leave two weeks later. I hated every second I was in the Navy and in the City of Norfolk.

  14. lincolnparadox says:

    Taking a picture of your car after you park it sounds like the best life-changing idea I have heard in a long time. I got my car towed once for parking on the street bordering a pay-lot downtown. I was parked legally, but the tow truck driver said that I was in the lot without a ticket. If I had snapped a quick picture with my cell phone camera, not only could I have saved myself $120, but I could have also pressed charges.

  15. VaMPKiSS1 says:

    I hate predatory tow trucks. Once I was sitting in my house working on my computer when I heard this giant commotion coming from my driveway. I poked my head out the window to see a towtruck towing my car away!

    I ran out of the house and demanded to know what was going on and the guy behind the wheel claimed he had “gotten a call about an abandoned vehicle on the street” and was refusing to put my car back despite the fact that he was trying to take it from my private property which was clearly not a street.

    I had to stand in the way and call the police. The guy pretended to the cops that it was all a misunderstanding, but I know what they were doing.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @VaMPKiSS1: In some jurisdictions, you can use deadly force to prevent someone from stealing your property.

  17. VaMPKiSS1 says:

    @Darren666: You know, I should find out if I’m in one of those jurisdictions, LOL!

  18. othium says:

    It was sure strange after commenting on this thread and my car had almost been towed again..

    I went out and moved my car to a new spot last night, but as I was bringing out my garbage I saw a two truck coming up the street. Being curious, I returned to my car and got inside. Sure enough, the driver was parking over by my car. I quickly started it up and pulled out. The driver was shouting at me but there was nothing he could do as I wasn’t about park it so he could take it away. He said he had been called to tow it and it was illegal for me to “interfere”. Tough luck buddy.

    I parked it at a friend’s house up the street and will be getting rid of it next week. It seems like my car is “marked” as a wasy cash cow or something. No ticket, no warning. They just showed up and were going to take it. The tow driver said there was a ticket but after calling, I could find no information that one
    was issued.

    I’ll be taking the bus from now on. Can’t afford to pay towing fees anymore.

  19. tcm22 says:

    I just make sure my cars are parked in the garage with the door down. Haven’t had a problem yet!

  20. MrEvil says:

    Jeez, you guys live in some terrible towns. Where I live, if it’s registered and parked appropriately, it can’t be towed so long as it doesn’t have a for sale sign on it. They’ll let cars sit abandoned along the highway for the better part of a week.

  21. jwissick says:

    Bring some of those tow trucks to San Jose… I live in a 10 unit apt building. There are 2 abandoned cars here. Have not moved in months. Ugly with all the dust and dirt.

    I would love to see the 1-800-GOT-JUNK trucks that sit on the side of the road for days towed. The owners sit them there for ad value… Cheap Hauling trucks too. Some have flats and they move then every 3 days to avoid the tow.

  22. savvy9999 says:

    @ChaosMotor: No snark here, but you had a disabled vehicle. Did you call the police to tell them (and their associated parking national-socialists) about your vehicle?

    I have had cars break down all over the nation, and if I couldn’t fix it or move it on my own, next step was to call the police –using ‘0’, not 911– and report my vehicle as disabled. They’ll usually give you at least 72 hours if not more to get something worked out. If it was a slow day for the cops sometimes a cruiser would stop by within minutes to snoop about and check papers (which is fine if you’re not doing anything illegal), other times when I came back a day later a sticker would be on it with a date telling scummy towers to back off until then.

    Bottom line if your car needs to sit somewhere it’s not supposed to, even for just a couple of hours, call the police. Creates the paper trail that would most helpful later in case it gets towed or stolen outright or broken into for the stereo (which has happened to me twice). Insurance companies loooooove official police paper.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I had this happen to me a few months ago in Miami after a family member had a mental health crisis and drove himself to the hospital. He couldn’t remember where he parked the car and we spent several days scouring the area, but we were really more focused on getting his medication adjusted so that we could spring him from the hell-hole that is Highland Pavilion.

    Several calls and visits to Miami-Dade and City of Miami police departments yielded no information, and no parking violations were found. We also learned that we could not report it as stolen, since it was just “misplaced.”

    A full week later on a run to the hospital, we actually spotted the car on a flatbed headed in the opposite direction, but we were unable to follow it because of the highway configuration. Since we now knew that the car had been towed, we figured it would be reported to the police (several police told us that this was the standard procedure…)

    Fast forward a few more days with no sign of the car, and the parking violations start rolling in. Based on the tickets, we now know where it was parked and where the dirtbag tow truck driver stole it from. We can report it as stolen now, but we’re on the hook for around $300 in parking violations.

  24. vladthepaler says:

    So it’s legal to steal a car and sell it provided the car gets demolished rather than driven by its new owner? That’s what you get when your state doesn’t know how to use a voting machine.