This week, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and Commissioner Nikki Fried joined the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to warn consumers of scammers posing as rental car companies to steal from unsuspecting customers.
“As vaccinations increase and the country is opening back up, Floridians are ramping up their travel plans but that also means shortages in available rental cars, higher prices, and scammers looking to take advantage,” said Fried. “If the rental car deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Contact us at the FDACS Division of Consumer Services with any concerns and we will look into all consumer complaints.”
With rental car availability at an all-time low, prices are sky-high. If consumers suddenly find an available car at a cheap price, it may be a scammer looking to cash in on the rental shortage. Scammers are posing as rental car companies, setting up their own websites, and advertising fake customer service phone numbers, all to convince travelers they’re legit. Then, they’re asking people to pre-pay for the rental — with a gift card or prepaid debit card.
Fried’s office offered the following tips for consumers to avoid summer rental car scams:
- 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.
- Report suspected fraud: If you believe you have received a solicitation that is a scam, report it to FDACS immediately by filing a consumer complaint. All consumer complaints will be looked into. Call the FDACS at 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers, or file a complaint online at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.
Before you rush to book that miraculously available rental car, take a moment to read up about things you should consider when renting a car. If you spot a rental car scam, you may also contact the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.