Another post pandemic fallout is the fact that rental car agencies have sold their fleets, for obvious reasons. In doing so, there aren’t enough rental cars for all of us who have been stuck at home and are now raring to go on vacation.
While the shortage of rental cars naturally means higher prices, and some entrepreneurs are responding to the shortage with offerings of an Airbnb-type model, scammers also are aware of the shortage and the frenzy to confirm a rental car and see an opportunity to fleece consumers.
According to a Federal Trade Commission Scam Alert, scammers are designing spoof websites to lure consumers and deceive them into believing they can provide a rental car at a deep discount. When you click on the website to rent a car, they ask you to pre-pay with a gift card or a pre-paid debit card. RED FLAG. Your gut should be telling you that a legitimate rental car agency would not be asking for payment with a gift card!
According to the FTC:
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. Don’t 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.
Before you rush to book that miraculously 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.
And I’ll add a couple more:
- If a deal is too good to be true, it’s exactly that—too good to be true, and probably a scam.
- Be cautious about any “deals” you get through an email, as it may be malicious.
- Be cautious about calling any customer support numbers you get through emails.
Happy vacationing, and be safe while reserving car rentals.