You've headed off for dinner and a movie and found (finally) a place to park (you believe legally). You have dinner and see a great flick. A perfect evening!

You head back to the car only to find it's NOT THERE!!!

Your first thought is, of course, it's been stolen. But a call to the local police reveals your car was towed. And, you soon learn, regardless of the argument you have that the car was legally parked, if you want your car back, you have to pay for the tow. And since the towing company is closed at 11:00 p.m. Friday night, and they're closed on Saturday and Sunday, you can't get your car until Monday. And on Monday, you learn you have to pay in addition to the tow, 3 days storage!

Have you been scammed? Well, if you car was indeed legally parked, it's quite possible you were.

There seems to be a growing trend by unscrupulous towing firms to pull just these type of shenanigans.

Now here's the other side of the scheme. Towing companies are typically contracted by the city to tow illegally parked and abandoned vehicles. If the owner doesn't show up to pick up his/her car, the car is sold at auction. The proceeds of the sale, over and above towing and storage fees, are supposed to be forwarded to the city coffers. San Francisco recently discovered a company they had contracted with since 1987 had not been reporting the sales (in some cases they were just placing the title to the cars in the company's name) and simply pocketing the money. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera believes the city has been defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you think you've been scammed by an illegal tow, contact your City Attorney's office to file a complaint.