Predatory Towing: Greenville man says he was targeted - WFLA News Channel 8

Predatory Towing: Greenville man says he was targeted

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - In the past three years, 50 complaints have been filed against towing companies with the Better Business Bureau in eastern North Carolina.

Statewide, 21 complaints were filed against 18 different towing companies according to the Attorney General's office.

Most complaints stem from apartment complex parking lots, because they tend to be the strictest enforcers. Apartment complexes are required to post signs designated at "permit only" in most towns, and they must list the towing company's name and phone number.

If no sign is present, you can take a picture of the parking lot's entrance and file a complaint with the Attorney General's office. The other option is filing a complaint in small claims court.

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Ever parked your car and ran inside for a few minutes, only to come out and see someone is towing it away?

One man says he feels unfairly targeted after it happened to him at a Greenville apartment complex. Now 9 On Your Side is investigating both sides of the story in the midst of "predatory towing” claims.

Just five minutes – that's how long one man says it took for a towing company to zero in on his car and demand $80 if he wanted it back.

"I thought my car was being stolen at first," says a man who only wants to be identified as Stephen. "I just totally felt that I was taken advantage of. I felt that I was preyed upon."

Stephen says it happened so fast, he felt as though the tow truck drivers were “stalking” him. He says he saw the posted signs for permit parking only in Greenville’s Wilson Acres apartment complex; but with no designated visitor’s spots close by and plenty of empty spaces, opted to park out front and quickly run inside to pick up his young daughter from a friend's home.

That’s when G-Vegas Towing and Recovery swooped in.

"I felt like there is a time and a place for towing companies to do their job and do something good for this community, but I don't believe that was one of those times," Stephen says.

He called the police, who told him the towing company, which has an agreement with the complex to enforce parking rules, was within its legal right to tow his car off the private property.

But Stephen, and some of the people who live at Wilson Acres, question the aggressive towing tactics.

"There’s a guy that comes through and he, kind of like a shark, and goes after all the cars,” says Jeffrie Moss, who’s lived there for two years. "It's pretty mean.”

An employee with G-Vegas Towing and Recovery did not want to go on-camera, but emphasized the complex asks them to patrol the lots as a courtesy to the people who pay to live there.

He says they operate within the law and don't target anyone, just enforce what the clearly marked signs already say – which for Stephen was a tough and pricey lesson learned.
It’s not just Greenville – this issue has sparked conversations in communities across the country and spurred stricter regulations for towing companies in cities like Charlotte and Raleigh.

9 On Your Side plans to follow up with the complex’s leasing office and city code enforcement officers when they are back in the office following the MLK holiday. Both were closed Monday.  

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