Scammers are ripping off rental car consumers
With more Americans planning to hit the road this summer, the number of travelers seeking to rent cars is rising against the backdrop of an ongoing car shortage with rental companies. Seeing this as an opportunity to make money off unsuspecting consumers, scammers are taking advantage of the opening this presents as they look to cash in on the rental car shortage. If you come across an available car at a cheap price that is too good to be true, it probably is, and you might be dealing with scammers. This should serve as your first red flag.
These professional crooks are posing as rental car companies, setting up their own websites, and advertising fake customer service phone numbers, all to convince travelers they are legit. They are asking travelers to pre-pay for the rental — with a gift card or prepaid debit card, which you should never do. This is your second red flag.
To avoid rental car scammers driving off with your money:
Research the rental car company by searching for the name of the company and words like “scam,” “complaint,” or “review” to check if other people have had a bad experience.
Verify deals with the company directly. If you need customer support, look for contact info on the company’s official website. Do not use a search engine result. Scammers can pay to place sponsored ads in search results, so they show up at the top or in the sponsored ad section.
Pay with a credit card if possible, and never pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. You can dispute credit card charges, but gift cards and prepaid debit cards can disappear like cash. Once you give the number and PIN to a scammer, the money is gone.
This is one of those look before you leap moments. Before you rush to book that astonishingly cheap and available rental car, take a beat and read up about things you should consider when renting a car. If you spot a rental car scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.