Saturday, November 29, 2008
Another way to tell if your vehicle has been unlocked, is the weatherstripping at the bottom of the glass is torn, bent or detached from the door shell.
There is really no valid reason for a wrecker driver to unlocked a locked vehicle, considering the towing industry provides all the necessary equipment to tow a vehicle. In most cases, a wrecker driver, when peering into the vehicle, will list items seen on the vehicle inventory sheet, while others will just steal what they want and write on the vehicle inventory form that the doors were unlocked.
In any event you find that your vehicle has been opened, while at the storage facility, you most definitely want to call 911 and file a report for burglary of your vehicle. If you find that your door locks don't work, you most definitely want to call the Police to make a damage report and be sure to get the offense number, so when you file a complaint against the towing company and vehicle storage facility, for damage or personal effects stolen from your vehicle, you can include this offense report number in the explanation of your complaint.
In every insurance claim filed against a towing company and vehicle storage facility, having a Police offense report number validates your claim, as without it, it's your word against the towing company, and they are known to be pathological liars.
Never, should you ever leave the Vehicle Storage Facility property if you discover damage to your vehicle without having law enforcement come and take a report. Once you leave the storage lot and notice items missing, your chance of any recovery is slim to none.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is best, if you can afford it, to pay the wrecker service, to tow your vehicle to the shop, to avoid an added expense when paying your repair bill.
When it comes to nonconsent towing, such as "taking" your vehicle without your permission, those towing fees cannot be any higher than what a wrecker service has submitted to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations.
What I do know happens for a fact, is that a wrecker service that does not have a tow truck large enough to tow a vehicle, will use another wrecker service, but write in a higher fee, so the consumer will pay more than what the first wrecker service paid to have the vehicle towed the vehicle storage facility. Take for instance, Rick Wrecker Service will charge Kay Towing Service $250 to tow the vehicle and Kay Towing Service will turnaround and charge Consumer $1000. Of course the receipt that the wrecker driver for Rick Wrecker Service will paid from will indicate the correct amount of $250.
This is very common in the towing of large vehicles such as tractor trailers and large trucks over 26,000 GVW. In several towns across Texas, wrecker services without heavy duty wreckers, are breaking into large vehicles, hot wiring the ignition, then driving the trucks to the storage facility, then producing a fraudulent wrecker receipt for towing, when the vehicle was driven.
Of course, a lot of wrecker drivers would never do illegal things like this, but there are large number that wouldn't think twice about tampering with a governmental record, a 2nd degree felony, to increase their income.
Between wrecker service owners giving kickbacks for business to shops and parking facilities, to failing to withhold federal income taxes from "employees", to wrecker drivers stealing personal effects of vehicles they tow, you just have to wonder how many people in the towing industry actually sit on the front of church on Sunday mornings.
But, there are a few wrecker services that are honest, hardworking people, who make difference in people's lives.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Dress in comfortable clothing with a number of pockets. Avoid flashy jewelry whether it is real or costume. Wear comfortable shoes in case you have to run from an assailant.
Avoid purses and wallets. Instead carry a fanny pack to leave your hands free to deal with children and packages. Carry only the essentials. For men, instead of a wallet, carry a money clip in your front pocket.
Carry cash in denominations no larger than a $20. Carry your cash in various locations on your body, such as pockets, socks and bras. If you carry a checkbook, keep up with the check numbers and the recipients in order to be able to easily cancel checks if necessary. Carry only the credit cards you need while shopping. Always log your credit card numbers and the 800 numbers and keep them in a safe place in case you have to cancel them.
Drive with your car doors locked.
Drive around a parking lot to make sure there are no suspicious people lurking about. Park in a well-lit area and landmark yourself so you can find your car easily. Exit quickly, lock your doors and walk quickly to your destination. Keep your keys in your hand in case you have to use them as a defensive weapon. Walk well away from the parked cars because someone could be hiding between them. Move to the driver's side of a car if one approaches. Make both visual and verbal contact with people. This lets a potential attacker know you have seen them and may recognize them again.
When returning to your car, have your keys in hand, quickly enter your car and leave. Do not sit and arrange packages, make phone calls or put on make-up.
Do not activate a remote keyless entry until you are even with the back of your vehicle.
If you are attacked, do not resist. If you are forced into a physical confrontation to protect yourself or others, scream to call attention to yourself. Use keys or thumbs to gouge the attacker's eyes, use the heel of your hand to jam the attacker's nose or Adams apple, knee the groin area or stomp down on top of the attacker's foot. Then, run quickly to escape.
If you are attacked, try to be able to describe your attacker by race, sex, height, weight, identifying features such as scars or tattoos. Note glasses and clothing, vehicle descriptions and the direction of travel.
Shop with others, and if you are by yourself and worried about going into the parking lot, ask for an escort from security or the store manager.
Do not leave valuables in your vehicles. Cash, purses, coins, jewelry, cell phones, radar detectors, cameras, GPS systems and laptop computers are very popular items to steal.
Make sure you are not followed. If you think you are being followed, drive until you see a police officer or go through a fast food drive window and ask the clerk to get a description of the vehicle if they can and call the police for you. Do not go home.
Always check that no one enters your garage as the door closes behind you. Exit your vehicle only after you know that everything is secure.
911 is a free call on your cell phone. Know your locations so you can give it to the police dispatcher.
These are just some of the important factors "all" shoppers should consider to protect yourself in the mall parking lots. Criminals are hungry and they will strike when they believe your guard is down.
Monday, November 24, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, the media reported that State Senator John Whitmire was receiving threatening phone calls from death row inmates by way of smuggled cellphone. At least the Senator knew the inmate calling was locked up and posed no immediate threat. But, what would the Senator say about if one his daughters were raped by a wrecker driver that arrived to tow their vehicle to the shop?
Same scenario, the exact same type of criminals we do not want to give access to our citizens are now being licensed by a state agency to come as close as your front door or give you a pedicure.
It was recalled before TDLR was given the towing and vehicle storage licensing and enforcement role, that TxDOT had for 20 years, from the Legislature, was this move going to cleanup this industry that still has a bad reputation of screwing the consumer and insurance companies. As it appears, with TDLR issuing Occupations Licenses to Convicted Auto Thieves, Baby and Child Molesters, Murderers, Serial Rapists and Burglars, the citizens of Texas and our tourists, should carry a weapon to protect yourselves.
I am just ashamed that William H. Kuntz, Jr., Executive Director, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, would allow his agency to give a license these types of convicts.
This issue needs to be addressed and stop issuing licenses to Registered Sex Offenders. To date, 28 Registered Sex Offenders have been identified as being issued a TDLR Occupations Employee License.
You can verify whether or not a person is issued an Occupations License here, and here for Sex Offender Registry.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
On Thursday, I received a call from a Georgetown, Texas resident that his vehicle had been towed for being inoperable, but that could not be, he was driving the vehicle backinforth to work, even drove the vehicle from the storage lot after being forced to pay $193.30.
I asked Mr, Whitfield (victim) several questions about the parking lot and just couldn't believe there were no towing signs posted, especially, in Williamson County. So, I decided to drive up to this apartment complex can check it out myself, and sure enough, there were no towing signs posted at either of the curbcuts to enter the parking facility.
I was not surprised to hear that the towing company, CEN TEX, brought, not once, but twice the towing signs, for "free", a major mistake, since the towing company cannot have a financial interest in the parking facility.
I couldn't help myself but go into the complex office to ask whether they knew they could not being towing vehicles with no towing signs posted, only to be told, their residents were told when moving in the policy on towing. I was like, whatever, then asked for a business card, after providing mine and left.
According to Mr, Whitfield, several vehicles have been towed from this apartment complex parking lot with no signs posted as required by Occupations Code 2308.251.
Come Monday, I will be calling the Georgetown Police Department to determine whether or not their agency is aware this organized criminal activity is occurring in their city and what they plan to do about it, since, Mr. Whitfield has assured me he will file criminal charges against all those involved.
Just as sure as day and night, any vehicle towed from this apartment complex's covered parking spaces for being parked in as assigned space, is illegally towed!
The real culprit in illegal towing is the wrecker driver, who actually commits the criminal offense when he/she tows a vehicle, from a noncomplying parking facility.
I'm sorry, ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse when, a victim is forced to pay a ransom, to retrieve their vehicle, because the wrecker driver was not trained in the Towing Law.
I would not recommend this apartment complex nor the towing company to anyone, since both pride themselves in committing criminal offenses!
The importance of citizens reporting suspicious activity, working with the law enforcement, can go along way in making our communities a safer place to live.
With Interstate 35 being a major shipping route for the drug cartels, there is no telling who is sitting in a vehicle parked along the freeway. Good Samaritans get killed everyday just offering help to people, as I am not going to be next Good Samaritan killed, as told by local police, "Call it in".
Friday, November 21, 2008
The hardworking citizens and many visitors to the Greater Fort Worth Dallas region are daily victimized at the hand of certain towing companies, vehicle storage facility and parking facilities without little or no resistance from law enforcement.
Criminal illegal towing of vehicles, from mopeds to tractor trailers is so rampant, the public is being burned financially with little or no hope of recovering their financial losses, while many law enforcement agencies, turn away potential crime victims with the lame excuse, “it’s a civil matter”, when in reality, if they conducted a criminal investigation, criminal charges could be filed.
Several towing companies in the North Texas area are offering financial incentives free to parking facility owners and managers, just for the authorization to roam their parking lots towing vehicles for whatever reason the wrecker drivers deem, which is highly illegal and criminal. In a recent incident, local towing company Cencir, cut the locks off the door of several tractor trailers (18 wheelers), hot wired the ignition, then drive the trucks to their storage facility. Unfortunately, it’s the same issue as the Home Depot parking lot, where the towing company installed the signs, forged a written contract and forced six owner operator over the road drivers to pay a huge ransom to get their trucks released. This without a doubt is auto theft, but, getting Grand Prairie Police to file criminal charges is a different matter, even though, they took an oath to wear the badge to uphold the criminal laws of Texas. If law enforcement would just investigate the written documentation of the advertising by these rogue towing companies, it's a clear cut violation, for a towing company to have a financial interest in the parking facility if vehicles are be towed from them.
Earlier this week, I was a guest speaker at the Apartment Association of Tarrant County 2008 Trade Show, in an effort to educate residential multi-family property management personnel, about the importance to complying with the Texas Towing Act. As I said again and again to over 250 property managers, “I seriously doubt your towing company is going to send you money for your commissary account while locked up in Jail for violating the Towing Act”. Most were utterly caught by surprise, to be told they could be arrested because their parking lots were NOT in compliance prior to vehicles being towed.
The public is being burned daily throughout the state, but even more so in the North Texas area. Local news media frequently runs news stories about towing issues, but, very seldom, is any action taking by law enforcement, to stop this continuing criminal activity, there is no valid reason, for any law enforcement agency to ignore the fact that certain towing companies and parking facility owners are engaging in organized criminal activity, a 2nd Degree Felony.
It’s time for the media to focus on why law enforcement won’t allow potential victims of illegal towing in their communities to call their department’s 311 or 911 and file an offense report for an illegal tow. Other law enforcement agencies allow this type of offense report, is investigated, criminal charges filed, warrants obtained and arrest are made. Why is that Dallas and Fort Worth and other outlying law enforcement agencies allow these criminal enterprises to flourish at the expense of the public. Those are the questions that need to be asked!
Many cities in the North Texas area fail to regulate the nonconsent towing fee, which they have the power to do with an ordinance, instead of letting towing companies charge extremely high fees.
For those of you have been burned from being towed off private property, please contact your State representatives and senator with the request to increase the penalty for violating to Texas Towing Act to a Class B instead of the Class C, so law enforcement agencies can’t ignore the criminal offenses being committed behind illegal towing.
Email, call and write your local city councils and mayors to regulate the nonconsent towing fee and to require the wrecker driver to release your vehicle at no charge if caught within the parking lot. These are issues that other cities (Austin) around the state have already addressed.
I urge you to visit www.texastowingcompliance.com to educate yourself about private parking lot towing scams and how vehicle storage facilities attempt to conceal who authorized the towing of your vehicle.
In the end, I just told everyone property manager or other vendor at the trade show, "I will not sacrifice my integrity for the sake of profit, so don't expect something for nothing"!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I have a hard time understanding, why a wrecker driver, this latest one, working for Assured Towing, thinks the commission for the illegal tow he makes is worth more to him, than the $1064.00 citation he will be issued, as soon as the Wrecker Enforcement Detective receives the case (08-5061092) filed by the victim, that contacted us via our website. The conduct of this wrecker driver, knowingly violating the city ordinance, should send a message to property managers regarding this towing company, who, incidentally, does not have a good reputation with APD.
A tow truck owned by J&J Towing of Austin was stopped last night for a traffic violation, upon inspection, a wrecker enforcement detective discovered a fraudulent vehicle inspection sticker on the tow truck, which was removed and the tow truck ordered out of service. Most people would never think of stealing a valid inspection sticker from another vehicle and placing it on their vehicle, but, this is the type of business Frank Sapp operates with J&J Towing.
How a property manager or parking facility owner can sleep at night, unaware the towing company they hired, is committing criminal acts against their residents, guest, tenants and customers. But, the next morning, the office is open, your mad residents are very upset because their vehicles were towed. One resident from an apartment complex in the Houston area was towed because he had no parking permit, but never received any notice from management that parking permits were being used.
Still, unsuspecting vehicle owners or operators are being forced to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars to get their vehicles back, money a lot of people don't have to spare, especially, when they receive no notification.
Law enforcement agencies across the state are doing your citizens a disservice by not addressing the criminal activity that flourishes within the towing industry in your community. Simply ignoring the fact that a towing company, parking facility and vehicle storage facility are engaging in criminal activity against the citizens does not tread water with us or the law enforcement agencies that "DO" uphold the law and hold these wrecker drivers responsible for their criminal conduct.
Municipalities with a police department, should license any wrecker driver that performs a nonconsent tow, from their city limits. The license should prohibit a driver convicted of sex crimes, auto theft, assaults and other serious offenses. The state issued license through TDLR sets the minimum requirements, as local governments are increasing the requirements to keep their community safe from convicted serial rapist from coming in contact with these types of individuals.
Municipalities should regulate the nonconsent towing fees to avoid your citizens from being financially devastated by high towing fees.
The motoring public must remain vigilant when parking your vehicle in a parking lot, as your chances of becoming the next victim of a criminal wrecker driver are high!
Property managers and owners are being lead to believe from their towing company they have nothing to worry about regarding towing, but, it is very much not true, as WE recommend to every victims that contacts us, to go after the parking facility, not the towing company, when seeking monetary damages for illegal towing.
A property manager must asked themselves one question when hiring a towing company, "am I going to sacrifice my integrity for the sake of profit"?
If you accept "anything" for free or at a cost nobody else can buy for, your going to lose and lose financially in Court, no doubt about it.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Time and time again, I receive phone calls from people who have seen their vehicles towed during the middle of the night, for reasons, that the wrecker driver determines is a violation.
Several towing companies that offer parking lot striping as a package deal to retain a towing contract with an apartment complex are painting the parking space stripes closer than the original parking lot striping, creating a nightmare, for vehicle owners who drive larger vehicles. It's impossible for a Ford Expedition to park in a compact parking space, without touching the white stripe..
Of course, those property management companies, that accept these package deals from towing companies, never think about the end results, when they are being questioned before a Judge, regarding accepting a financial benefit from their towing company.
TAA property managers SHOULD read their REDBOOK, because these regulations for towing are here to stay and towing companies will change their company's name, as your company will be left holding the Judgment for the criminal activity you authorized!
Friday, November 14, 2008
This judgment, like many others, are holding property management companies employed by property owners of parking facilities, financially responsible, for violating the Law.
This incident began from a visit to our website, that empowered a victim, with the information, counseling and state law in hand, to take this issue to Court, which ended in his favor, all because his vehicle was towed for an expired inspection sticker.
Parking facility managers and owners should think twice about accepting kickbacks from towing companies, as in the end, you will be held responsible.
The are actually three types of actions available to victims of illegal towing, (1) Probable Cause Hearing, (2) Justice or District Court for Statutory Violations, and (3) DTPA.
It is wise just to obey the law, instead of taking the advice of a towing company.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
TxDMV allows Vehicle Storage Facilities thru a contract to obtain vehicle registration information for vehicles that are stored without the consent of the vehicle owner to verify ownership. But, many towing company employees are running registrations in violation of the Driver Protection Act for reasons prohibited by State and Federal Law.
If you ask a police officer to run someone's vehicle license plate, they will tell you they are not allowed to, but any towing company that operates their own vehicle storage facility, any of their employees or friends, who could be convicted felons, could obtain your personal information.
I know this is happening, because I was told by a TxDMV staff person, that my vehicle license plate had been ran by 4 different towing companies numerous times, yet my vehicle has never been towed or stored at any of the 4 towing company's vehicle storage facility.
Should you receive a certified letter from a towing company advising you that your vehicle's registration or inspection sticker is expired, subject to being towed, your personal information has been compromised.
Keep in mind, the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations has issued Vehicle Storage Facility Employee Licenses to thousands of convicted felons over the past 3 years.
Your traveling down the highway and your vehicle breaks down, leaving you stranded. Your first instinct, is to call a tow truck, or just luckily wave one down. Wow, how lucky could you get, a tow truck pulls up in front of my vehicle. The wrecker driver walks up to my window and asked if I need help, I replied, by vehicle stopped and won't start.
The wrecker driver tells me he can tow my vehicle to the dealer, which is just 10 miles away, oh cool I said to myself, so, the wrecker driver hooks up my car and off we go.
From hearing in news reports about wrecker drivers, I asked the wrecker driver (Benjamin Guerrero) if he had the required licenses to tow my care, replies yes, but could not produce either one to me. Then we pull into the dealership, I was feeling much better, when asked how much was the tow, the wrecker driver said $90.
Since I didn't have the cash, I asked if a credit card would work, with a smile, the wrecker driver, said sure. So, I give my credit card number with the expiration date to the wrecker driver, thinking this guy was so nice and polite, completes the paper and gives me an Austin Express Wrecker receipt.
About a week later, I get a call from the fraud protection department of my MasterCard Platinum Card, regarding several unauthorized charges that neither myself or husband recognized.
To make a long story short, that wrecker driver that towed me, he and the dispatcher (Frank Rodriguez) that both worked at Austin Express, confirmed by a manager, Monica Ramos, on bond for tampering with governmental records, were stealing the credit card numbers from people who paid to pickup their vehicles after being towed, or just broken down on the highway.
All three of these Austin Express Wrecker employees were charged with felony offenses, with only one still in jail unable to post bond.
Benjamin Guerrero 9/1/85 Warrant D1DC08302425
Frank Rodriguez 10/14/76 Warrant D1DC08302578
From the conversation I had with the detectives, Austin Express Wrecker and Tow Time have very few properly licensed wrecker drivers.
You must be extremely careful when using a credit card to pay for towing services and vehicle storage fees.What this incident tells us, is that some in the towing and vehicle storage facility industry even being licensed by the Texas Department of License and Regulation are outright criminals who could at anytime commit a criminal act without the average person even knowing they were scammed.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
When the police officers arrive, the wrecker driver mumbles while the vehicle owner was telling the officer his vehicle was not "fully prepared to transport" and had witnesses to back up the story.
Then comes good part, the officer ask the wrecker driver, for his city issued wrecker license, the new TDLR operators license and his driver license, in addition to the vehicle owner. This is a common practice for the Austin Police to check for warrants.
Oh oh, the officer tells the wrecker driver to place his hands behind his back, to be handcuffed. Who would have possibly known that the wrecker driver would have been wanted for outstanding warrants. The vehicle owner did not have no warrants, so he was free to take his vehicle and return to what he was doing.
Then the police officer calls for their contract towing company, Southside Wrecker, to come impound the J&J Towing truck.
How sweet could it have turned out, the cops really didn't appreciate verbal abuse from the wrecker driver, so they transported his butt to the county jail.
As we always tell people, attempt to catch the wrecker driver while hooking up your vehicle in the parking lot, they have to release it for free, if they refuse, call the 911.
It is not uncommon for an apartment complex property manager, supervisor and/or owner, to ask for and receive financial incentives in return for a contract to tow vehicles.
Some towing company owners goes an far as to advertise in online and print publications, encouraging a property manager, supervisors and owners to conspire to commit a criminal act against their own residents, at the expense of the vehicle owner or operator.
It is not uncommon for your property manager to sacrifice there integrity for the sake of profit from a towing company.
I on more than one occasion have heard property managers brag about trips to Las Vegas, as a reward for the income generated from towing vehicles from apartment complex parking lots, for the towing company.
Anyone who chooses to live in an apartment complex should ask if they have a towing company that prowls the parking lot, to tow vehicles without warning.
You can almost be sure that if a towing company’s name is on the red and white towing sign, that is supposed to posted as you enter of the parking facility from a public street, the sign belongs to the towing company, not the apartment complex.
Property Manager, Supervisor, and Owners should heed the warning, that you are responsible for your parking facility being in compliance with State Law.
Even if your towing company’s contract states they will hold you harmless from towing vehicles with your authorization, you are still subject to criminal prosecution for violating the Towing Act.
You most likely been assured by your towing company, you pose no danger, but, that is a lie.
Another misleading issue, is the Certificate of Insurance, that some towing companies provide with their towing contracts. Unless that Certificate provides General Liability with $2M each occurrence, your property and residents are not protected. You should read and verify the coverage, before signing a contract with a towing company.
On November 18th, I will be attending the Apartment Association of Tarrant County’s Trade Show, as guest speaker for Eric’s Towing and encourage property managers and supervisors, to learn the facts of about what will happen to your property management company if you choose to violate the Texas Towing Act.
Remember, it only takes “one” violation of the Texas Towing Act to be found guilty in Justice Court. Not only will you be liable for your attorneys fee, but the three times plus $300 judgment, the victim’s attorney fees and a criminal record.
It’s so easy to comply, instead of costing your property owner a lot of undue heartache, bad publicity and a drain your revenue.