There is a new tow-for-pay scam going around and several body shops have contacted ABN to alert us.
The invitation comes by FAX or from a deaf-services relay call* (see update below.) The relay call operator will call you and say a deaf person has need for your services. Calls have been reported in California, Florida and Georgia.
The scenario is that their car needs to be towed from another state to be fixed at your shop. But they need you to pay the tow bill before the car can be delivered. Several shops have received faxes from someone using the names "Evangelist Jerry Bratt" or "Jacqueline Harris"; relaying the same scenario saying they had an accident in a 2007 Cadillac Escalade on their way to Kansas or to visit their mother. And of course it asks that you only contact this person by email. And they’ll be paying cash. And of course the shop needs to pay the bill.
The fax asks for the address of your shop.
For example, Robert Toler, owner of Toler Paint and Body Shop in Warner Robins, GA, received a fax from "Evangelist Jerry Bratt" on February 20. The fax came from an Atlanta area code fax number and relayed the same scenario as other reported occurrences, requesting the shop send money for the damaged vehicle to be towed to their shop.
Sherry at California Auto Body in San Diego, CA, received a fax from Jacqueline Harris on March 13 stating the same set up as the Jerry Bratt scam. The fax she received came from a number with a Dallas, TX, area code, but the faxes have not all come from the same number, or area code.
The last time this went around shops were expected to pay a tow bill over a $1000 and they tell you the "wrecker" will only accept a moneygram. Maybe also a request for a credit card.
Don't fall prey but alert us if you receive this fax or are otherwise contacted. The reported sending fax numbers are/were 202-204-0669, 469-519-0414 and 678-250-9047.
AT&T Relay Call Version of the Scam
In the deaf or disabled version of the scam, Vivian from Chico, CA, reported that "I was reading about the tow for pay scam in the March 2012 issue. I have a new twist on this scam for you. I received a call from AT&T to assist with a phone conversation, this person was on a system that is used for people with disabilities, who can't speak on the phone so they use AT&T services to call.
This person had the same information, they were from my town traveling to Texas in a 2008 Escalade and had an accident. My shop came highly recommended so they wanted to have it towed back to California. The tow company didn't take credit cards and wanted me to run their credit card for $2500 to pay the $1500 tow bill and keep the remaining $1000 for the deposit on their repairs. Of course they wanted me to moneygram the $1500 to the tow company, after keeping me on the phone for 20 minutes the AT&T operator said her responses were not answers to my questions, she just kept teletyping the same thing to me if I could please help her, she had a disability.
After I asked for the tow co. phone no so I could contact them directly. She disconnected from the call. When I called AT&T they said the call was generated from a COMPUTER and there was nothing they could do about it, such as trace etc... they could be in another country. This is not only a scam but a terrible way to use a disability as a means to rip people off. I just thought I would inform you."
---Vivian from Chico