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Published on July 8th, 2021

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Rental Car Scams

As the pandemic slowed travel to a crawl, major rental car companies substantially downsized their fleets, selling off more than 770,000 cars, according to the Washington Post. Now, with travel picking up again, rental car companies are struggling to meet demand, opening the door to scammers.

“With rental car availability at an all-time low, prices are sky high,” the FTC wrote in a recent consumer blog. “So, if you suddenly find an available car at a cheap price, you might be dealing with scammers looking to cash in on the rental car shortage.”

Cheap prices are one red flag. Here are a few others:

  •  Gift cards or prepaid debits cards are the only forms of payment accepted. No legitimate rental car company will ask you to pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. If possible, the FTC says, pay with a credit card. You can dispute credit card charges. There’s no recouping the balance of a gift card or prepaid debit card once you relay the number and PIN to a scammer.
  • Contact info is only available in search results, including sponsored search results. Not all legitimate companies have websites with contact info, but most do. If you’re struggling to find information about a company online outside of an ad the company paid to place in search results, that’s probably a sign the company is hiding something.
  • The website uses the name of an actual rental car agency but something seems off. Several consumers have complained to the BBB about scammers posing as Budget, including one complaint from early June that said the website indicated the company was Budget. So if you have any suspicion that a company may not be who it says it is, you might be right. Call them up and start asking questions.

Find more of our coverage on cars here.

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