Rental Car Fraud, Scams & Add-Ons Can Turn a Dream Vacation into a Nightmare
Today’s savvy consumer is leery of scams and situations which may result in fraud, and for good reason. According to experts, scam artists and fraudsters victimize millions of consumers each year, and if you’re not careful, you could easily be next!
One area in particular which saw a dramatic rise in fraudulent credit card activity in recent years is rental car fraud. However, fraud isn’t the only way you may be losing out the next time you rent a car.
Safeguard Your Information
When looking for a rental car, many consumers conduct research online in an effort to comparison shop and find the cheapest rate. Taking advantage of online tools to find the best value in car rentals is an excellent way to narrow down your rental options, as well as find the most convenient rental agency to meet your needs.
Shopping around online may save money; however, it can also leave you vulnerable to rental car fraud. That’s why, when searching for a car, consumers should always be sure to use only established, trusted rental agencies.
Be skeptical of companies of whom you’ve never heard, as well as those who offer extremely low rental rates or do not provide contact information. Many scam artists use counterfeit websites to collect personal and financial information, hoping to steal your identity for their own gain.
Forget the Airport Rental
If you have the option to rent a car anywhere other than the airport, it could be well-worth the extra effort. Airport rentals can be as much as 50% more than renting offsite, so if you have the option of catching a hotel shuttle, cab, rideshare or public transport, it may save in the long run.
Another possible option would be to go off-site and checkout a one-way rental. This way, you can still save, but you can also simply drop the car off at the airport on your way home.
Read the Fine Print
Once you’ve chosen a rental agency, be sure to read the contract carefully and thoroughly before signing anything.
Rental agencies sometimes include extra fees, service charges and other add-ons as “opt-out” services, meaning that by signing, you agree to pay these fees unless you explicitly decline them. Even after you sign, remember to keep all of the stipulations in mind. More often than not, rental agencies charge exorbitant fees for returning the car late (or early), not replacing the gas in the car, or other details which you might easily overlook.
Carefully note any extras that you don’t want, and initial your rental agreement stating that you’ve declined the additions.
The insurance offered by rental companies to cover collision damage, theft and so on typically run anywhere between $10 and $30 per day, depending on the level of coverage.
While rental companies will typically talk-up the insurance option, many car owners already have rental insurance through their preexisting coverage. If not, Visa and MasterCard may also offer rental car insurance to their cardholders, so check with these companies first.
Even if the associate claims that you are not covered, still check with your own provider to be sure, and if you have one, remember to bring your insurance card with you.
Inspect the Car
Before leaving the lot, remember to carefully inspect the car both inside and out.
Check for any noticeable damage such as scratches, dents, upholstery stains or tears. If you find any, point them out to the rental service associate and note the damage on your rental agreement, then remember to take pictures with your phone as further evidence.
Lastly, turn the car on and verify that all of the electrical features work, including headlights, windshield wipers, radio and any additional items like backup cameras or digital displays. You must verify firsthand that all are in working order before you take possession of the vehicle.
Don’t Fall for Electronic Tolls
Some rentals come with a transponder for electronic toll systems, such as the EZ-Pass in the Northeastern U.S. or SunPass in Florida. Generally, rental companies charge a daily fee to use these devices, as well as the cost of any tolls passed.
If you have the option of using one of these devices, remember to choose wisely from the beginning of the trip. If you decide to start using the device halfway through the rental period, the company will charge their usage fee for all days of the rental, whether the device was used or not. If you’re willing to pay for the convenience, be sure to make that decision right from the get-go.
After the Rental
When you return the car, inspect the vehicle again to note any new damage that may have occurred. Verify with the rental agent that the car has been returned in good condition, and keep copies of all rental agreements and invoices.
You should always monitor your financial information, but be especially sure to keep a close eye on your account information after a car rental. Remember to check your statements carefully for the next several months to ensure that no additional charges have been added without your knowledge. If any do appear, contact the rental agency immediately to find out why, and compare their explanation against the documents in your possession.
If you do encounter an unexpected fee and feel you are entitled to a refund, contact eConsumer Services®. We’ll liaise with the rental car company on your behalf.
These extra steps involved in the car rental process may seem like a hassle. However, taking just a few extra moments to verify your security and wellbeing can ensure that you don’t fall victim to rental car fraud.