HELENA — Attorney General Tim Fox warned state residents Tuesday about a scam where call centers are posing as local tow truck companies.
The Montana Highway Patrol recently learned of these suspected scam activities in Missoula and Billings, according to a press release issued by the Montana Department of Justice.
The scam works like this: Consumers using search engine terms such as “tow truck companies near me” find results that include sham businesses.
In the Billings area, listings for “F & V Towing,” “Woods & Sons,” and “Fonnie’s Wrecker Service” appear, along with fake positive consumer reviews and photos that appear to be local brick and mortar locations for the companies, the press release states.
But when consumers call the companies for service, they are connected to an out-of-state call center whose representatives demand the caller’s credit card information. On closer inspection of the business profiles, photos of empty buildings available for lease are used to create the impression of a local presence.
Fake tow company websites will tend to look generic, with stock photos and few specifics about the business. These sites are put up in a hurry, so text on their website may have spelling or punctuation errors. Their goal is to get you to call right away so they can get your payment information so everything will direct you to a contact.
“There are a few good ways Montanans can protect themselves from falling victim to this scam before they’re stranded on the side of the road, waiting for help,” Fox said in the press release. “First and foremost, never give out your credit card or other payment information until the time of service.”
“Legitimate tow truck companies don’t charge until the tow is completed. Additionally, tow truck businesses doing business in our state must be inspected annually by the Montana Highway Patrol. They should have Letters of Appointment from the Highway Patrol and an inspection sticker in the tow truck’s window.”
Fox said consumers with questions about how to verify legitimate tow truck companies can contact their district MHP office , or the state Office of Consumer Protection at 800-481-6896 or 406-444-4500.