Scammers looking to take advantage of rental car shortage


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Rental car scams are on the ride as we head into the summer months.

Criminals have figured out how get you to pay for a non-existent rental car by impersonating legitimate rental company personnel.

You’ve just picked up your bags at a strange airport and you head for the rental car location. When you get there – you find there’s no car for you and no reservation in your name.

You have been ripped off and here is why it is happening.

When the pandemic struck, rental car bookings dropped off significantly and companies sold much of their fleet.

Now, as rental companies try to buy new vehicles to replace their sold cars, they find new cars are in short supply.

That’s because a computer chip shortage is delaying new car production.

That means car rental companies are facing a shortage of new vehicles, which in turn caused rental prices to increase and is forcing people to look for cheap deals.

Many people turned to the internet looking for those rental car deals.

Scammers know that and they are buying ads that cause their fake sites to appear at the top of a search engine’s results.

When you call the number listed in those fake ads, you get a “customer service representative” who tells you are in luck – there’s a deal.

“They are asking you to pay with a prepaid debit card,” said Bryan Oglesby of the Better Business Bureau. “They are claiming to have a special deal in connection with the gift cards companies to make payments through that.”

But, once the criminals get the gift card number, they take the cash immediately, and when you get to your destination – there is no car or reservation in your name.

That is what happened to a North Carolina resident who told the BBB’s Scam Tracker.

He lost $281 when he “Goggled what he thought was Budget Rent-A-Car.”

He said he “paid through a gift card” but found out later the real Budget never heard of him. He told scam tracker, “When he called back the number he’d used to make the so-called ‘reservation’ the phone had been disconnected.”

To protect yourself:

  • Search the company using words like “scam,” “complaint,” or “review”
  • Verify deals with the company directly on the company’s official website. (don’t use a search engine result)
  • Pay with a credit card so the charge can be disputed if necessary

The Federal Trade Commission said you can report rental car scams to it and in North Carolina, the attorney general’s office will also take on those complaints.

However, be warned, tracking down these scammers is difficult and once you give them your money–it’s usually gone.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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