Beware of phony deals on vacation rental cars

Never pay with gift cards, prepaid debit cards, FTC and BBB warn

SAN ANTONIO – As families search for affordable rental cars for summer vacations, the Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau are warning consumers to steer clear of imposters and phony deals.

The pandemic and chip shortage led to a limited supply of rental cars just as people are eager to hit the road and travel. Prices at some locations have soared, prompting people to search for cheap rentals and scammers to take advantage.

“Unfortunately, we do have victims locally, " said Jason Meza, regional director of Better Business Bureau.

Fake websites and sponsored links are popping up online and on social media, attracting those looking for a deal.

“A ‘customer service rep’ answers the phone, and it is a scam artist trying to get you to get involved in a special promotion,” Meza said.

The claim is the imposter rental company is in a partnership with a legitimate company, and if you pay up front with that company’s gift cards of prepaid debit cards, you get the big rental car discount. But there is no discount and there is no car.

“One victim told us, once you buy the gift cards and you give the codes, they transfer the money and they promise to deliver the car to a station or hub or location. But, you wait for the car, and the car never gets there,” Meza said.

Now, some of the big rental car companies, including Enterprise, are posting warnings about the scams on their websites.

To keep from being taken for a ride, the FTC and BBB say you should verify deals with the company by using contact information from their official website. Also, pay with a credit card so you will have some protection. And, never pay with gift cards, prepaid debit cards or even cash apps if you don’t know the person you’re paying.

The offers and websites may also have red flags. If the wording seems strange or if it has spelling and grammatical errors, those are tip-offs that it may not be legitimate.

About the Author

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

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