Florida Police Bust Garages For Illegal Tows, Insurance Fraud After Owners Seen Flashing Cash On Facebook

Here’s a helpful hint to anyone wishing to run a million-dollar insurance scam — don’t post pictures on Facebook of you and your friends waving wads of cash.

The owners of five body shops in Florida were arrested earlier this week, charged with illegally towing cars that had been in accidents — only to then charge insurance companies thousands for shoddy repairs. Some people say they never even got their car back from the garages.

The scam starts with tow truck drivers listening in to police scanners, on the hunt for accidents. The drivers arrive on the scene early and convince the person involved in the collision to let them tow the damaged vehicle.

“That is illegal,” a Hialeah, FL, police LT. tells CBS Miami. “The moment that happens that should be a red flag and you should say no.”

The cars would then be towed to a body shop which would charge insurance companies top dollar, while holding on to cars for weeks at a time; only to return them still dinged up, if they were returned at all.

One victim tells CBS Miami that it took longer than 30 days for him to get his car back from one of the body shops, and even then the side mirror was still hanging by a thread. Meanwhile, his insurer paid out $4,500 to the body shop.

The garages and tow drivers were the subject of a joint investigation between the Hialeah police and Allstate insurance, which says the scammers bilked more than a million dollars out of insurance companies over the last five years.

“At the end of the day it ends up in higher premiums,” said an Allstate rep about the end result of insurance fraud.

Meanwhile, the Hialeah police lieutenant summed everything up like he was in the opening segment of CSI: Miami: “These individuals opened five collision shops in five years and made one mistake… One of them opened up in Hialeah.”

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.