RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police say at least 1,000 drivers in the area may be victims of towing fraud. The department is now investigating at least one Richmond business for charging people too much or towing illegally.
However, the case is impacting more than just drivers hoping to find a parking spot. In fact, other towing companies say they've fallen victim to bad towing business practices.
RELATED: Possible towing fraud in Richmond goes back years, sergeant says
Mark Fogg has worked for Peaco Towing, Inc. for nearly 30 years. He's also on call 24/7 to tow for Henrico Police.
He says, recently, his business has fallen victim to other companies covering up their signage at apartment complexes they're contracted to work for.
"My firsthand experience is someone taking my sign down and putting up their sign, and towing away all my customers that have hangars to park in my lot," Fogg said. "And then they have to find out where their vehicle is and then they get charged outrageous amounts of money."
Fogg says he wants drivers to know what to look out for when they park their car, particularly if they're parking in a private lot.
The name of the property owner, agent or lessee of the private property must be on the sign. The name and phone number of the towing company should be on the sign. The sign must be at least 36 inches by 30 inches.
According to Virginia code, no hookup and initial towing fees of any passenger car shall exceed $150. Localities can set and enforce initial towing fees at a lower price, should they wish. An additional fee of $30 may be charged during nights or weekends.
In Richmond, initial fees should not exceed $135 and drop fees should not exceed $40.
Fogg said many drivers do not understand that they can get their car for a cheaper drop fee, should they arrive to the scene of the towing in time.
"If you're on the property, no matter if you're hooked up, got these [hooks] on it you've spent 20 minutes hooking that thing up and you're in motion with that vehicle and they come running out, drop fee," Fogg said. "Because you're still on private property."
Fogg said it's important to always keep a paper trail of any and all payments to a towing company, to stay calm, be aware of your surroundings, and to film the towing, even if you, the driver, are in the wrong.
"If there's no receipt and no paper trail, and he's not going to give you a receipt, you don't give them money," he said. "You call the police over there because he's robbing you. If you do have a problem, you need to reach out to your local law enforcement and tell them what's going on so that the problem can get solved. If it doesn't get solved, it's gonna keep going and it's gonna get worse."
Full Virginia Code on trespassing, vehicles, parking and towing can be found here.
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