Tow Truck companies taking abandoned cars for cash

by Adam Freeman

Crooked tow truck drivers are hitching up cars on the side of the road and hauling them off to the junk yard.

If that happens to you, you could be left without a car and without a way to prove it was ever stolen.

Investigators say some drivers are throwing the Florida laws regarding towing vehicles out the window and making some big bucks in the process.

They say the main places being targeted are along I-75 and on properties in Golden Gate Estates.

Sergeant Rebecca Gonzalez of the Collier County Sheriff's Office said sometimes people will file a stolen vehicle report, but the vehicle is never recovered.

She said tow truck drivers are stealing abandoned vehicles from the side of the road, or junk cars from your property, then taking them to salvage yards and cashing in.

"If they can find places that will take those vehicles with little or no paperwork, of course that's going to be that attractive incentive," said Gonzalez.

By the time you go looking for your car it's already been destroyed.

Victoria Heckman owns a salvage yard and she said she is seeing it happen more and more lately.

"Sometimes they're junk cars, but sometimes they're cars that are running that people are using. You know what I mean? And they get real upset," said Heckman.

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.

So far deputies have made one arrest in a case like this and they are pulling over more tow trucks to make sure they're legitimate and have the proper paperwork.

Deputies say the best way to protect yourself is to always wait for the tow truck to arrive and unless you absolutely have to, don't leave your car abandoned on the side of the road.