Action 9

‘Took my money’: Look out for that car rental con

It’s no secret, car rentals have been a nightmare for consumers over the past several years. It turns out scammers know it too and are taking advantage of consumers with fake offers that a hard to refuse.

Vietnam veteran Edward Mathis was needing a ride for a few days when he got a call about a great deal from someone pretending to be from a big-name car rental company.

“Telling me that they were renting cars, and they would rent me a mustang or one of these highfalutin cars and I said, ‘No, just give me a regular car.’” Mathis explained.

Mathis was then told it would cost $365 for four days and to get the offer, he had to pay with a Bluebird AmEx reloadable debit card. He paid the scammers but that car he thought he rented never showed up.

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“Yeah, I’m pissed off, they took my money, and they’re gone with it,” Mathis said.

The perfect storm of COVID-19, supply chain issues and then demand, that made rental cars hard to come by, and the scammers knew it.

“Anytime there’s a shortage of anything, whether it be merchandise, services, concert tickets, rental cars, scammers are going to look for an opportunity to make money off desperate people.

BBB president Holly Salmons told Action 9 that so far this year, 74 central Floridians have complained to their agency about car rental scams. She warns that a legitimate car rental company will never ask for payments with a gift card or a reloadable debit card. Salmons also urges consumers to make sure they’re dealing with the actual company because scammers are known to create sophisticated sites that lurk on the web waiting for their next victim.

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“They look just like the real thing and consumers lose millions of dollars, and we see that across the board,” Salmons said.

Mathis wants people to be aware of these types of schemes. A few weeks after getting hit with the car rental con, he was contacted by someone asking him to pay taxes to get his big lottery winnings.

“Got another one, that I won two and a half million dollars (laughs) Something told me in the back of my head, ‘That’s a scam. That’s a scam,’” Mathis said.

Paying for a car rental with a credit card will give you added protection.

If you’ve been taken for a ride, go to WFTV’s weblinks page for help filing complaints with the state’s consumer agency and with the Federal Trade Commission.