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How Car Rental Companies Scam People Out of Money

Here’s an important warning about rental car scams from real businesses that rent cars for a living and how they manage to scam you with their hidden costs. And not just your typical airport rental services, but luxury and exotic vehicle rentals as well that can put you in serious debt. Read on, watch the video and learn how to protect yourself the next time you rent a car.


Fake Rental Car Company Scams

Earlier this year, there were warnings in the news from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about how that car rentals became a hot commodity this year. So much so, that it led to a rental car shortage. And as a result, this in turn led to an increase in the number of scams from fake rental companies that looked like the real thing, and offered some attractive offers with unusually low rental rates.

Long story short: it’s a common scam asking people to pre-pay for the rental with a gift card or prepaid debit card. The lesson here was to make sure that before renting from a suspect car rental agency to check whether it is legitimate by:

• Researching the rental car company online using keywords in your search to include the company or business name along with “scam,” “complaint,” or “review” and see what turns on Google.

• Verifying deals with the company's customer service directly. Don’t rely on a search engine result--- scammers can pay to place sponsored ads in search results at the top or in the sponsored ad section of search results. Instead, look for actual contact info for customer support on the company’s website.

• Paying with a credit card if possible in person, and never pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card---once you fork over the number and PIN, the money is gone.

Real Rental Car Company Scams

While the FTC website focused on fake car rental scams, what was interesting was a comment posted by someone who posed the question whether legitimate car rental agencies were guilty of scamming their customers by skirting the gray areas of car rental agreements.

According to the post made just a few days ago:

This isn't a scam per se but it is a deceptive business practice: A couple of months before my trip I reserved a car with Enterprise through Expedia and it came out to a daily rate of ~$70 per day. The week of my trip I decided I wanted to pick up the car one day earlier. I called Enterprise and they said no problem. However when I picked up the car the daily rate was now more than double what I was originally quoted, not just for the additional day but for the entire existing reservation as well. Apparently when you modify a reservation they use that as an opportunity to change the whole reservation to the current daily rate.

This is not surprising. Especially since I was recently scammed by a well-known health care organization with a phone scam while placing an appointment for medical treatment. I was told that by taking care of my in-patient paperwork ahead of time over the phone, that I would not have to wait and fill out the typical “clipboard info dance” in the waiting room, and that it would get me in the doctor’s office quicker by doing that.

A month later, I received a bill that included a mysterious $100-even on my bill labeled as a “convenience charge.” It took some time to figure this one out, because no one in billing would fess up when asked. Eventually, however, it turned out that it was a trick to pay for “extra care” as part of my visit. In other words, it was the medical equivalent of a “Fast Pass” at Disney. Doh!

I digress, but I feel better somehow.

Back to Car Rental Scams

As it turns out, the posted complaint about the unexpected Enterprise car rental charges is small potatoes in comparison to much worse scams perpetuated by many car rental businesses.

Looking into car rental scams, I discovered how lucky I have been in the past. I knew enough to never buy into a rental agency’s insurance; and instead, made sure I can use my personal car insurance plan. Money saved---right?

Well…that all depends.

For my needs and vehicle types I typically rent, it works out okay…but it is still risky.

As it turns out there are exceptions to all agreements and wording that is practiced deception. For example, the words “coverage” and “insurance” although used interchangeably by most of us, are two different things that are gotchas in the agreements when something happens to the rented vehicle. In addition, the definition(s) of “careless or unlawful driving” can mean pretty much anything the car rental wants…after something happens to the rental.

However, what if I ever rented a “Luxury” of “Exotic” vehicle from a car rental. Sure, you can imagine that your insurance may not cover those type of rentals, but what if you rented a Ford Explorer? It might in fact be considered to be an “Exotic” vehicle rental without your even realizing it, all because the fine print might define all vehicles with an MSRP over $50K as an "Exotic" vehicle. You can imagine the horror stories that can…and do result.

That said, for more information about these type of scam practices by legitimate rental car businesses, here’s a very informative eye-opening YouTube channel video from an exotic rental car business owner and creator of the SuperSpeedersRob DVD series, Rob Ferretti, who explains how rental companies scam people out of money.

And finally…

If you have ever been scammed by a car rental service, please let know us about it in the comments section below. I am fairly certain we’ve only scratched the surface of this problem for car enthusiasts and general commuters.

For more articles about scams, check out the most important used car scam everyone should be aware about, and a warning to used car buyers about Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) car scams.

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily automotive-related news.


Martin (not verified)    August 25, 2021 - 11:11PM

They no longer fill the gas tank to the first click. They watch the gauge, and when it's closer to F than 7/8 they stop pumping. A car that should have a range of 360 goes out at 260. And the unsuspecting renter fills it back to the click. I was about 4 gallons short my last rental.

Timothy Boyer    August 26, 2021 - 9:28AM

You are correct, but let a customer do that on the return and they scream bloody murder. I have always been fastidious when it comes to making sure I scope out a gas station nearest to the airport to refill just before returning a rental. However, on one return they dinged me for a full tank charge because even though the fuel gauge showed full, they said it was "Not full enough and had to be returned showing the indicator PAST the F mark." I was in a mood, so I took the time to argue that overfilling a tank is prohibited (I was bluffing, can't swear to whether its true or not)
but since it stands to reason that fuel pumps are designed to shut off the nozzle to avoid overfilling, and there are warnings against "topping off" at some stations, that they may be in violation requiring renters to return vehicles past the F mark. They gave up and refunded me the extra charge, but it was a hassle. Oh well.

Stewart Marshall (not verified)    August 26, 2021 - 9:41PM

Rented a car this summer. By knowing the going rate I was able prepurchase a tank and run it till almost empty.

A couple of years ago rented a car and did fill it only to get charged for gas because the gas stations were not close to the airport.

Amanda j (not verified)    September 23, 2021 - 9:06PM

I was scammed by a fake rental company that apparently don't exist it called metra autos Enterprise llc and it redirects u to their page off Enterprise they never sent me a confirmation number I had my own screen shot and claim they are refunding me and never give me any confirmation emails on my rental where to pick up when to pick up ect it showing in Orlando but I researched it and it's a closed business relocated to a fake address idk what to do other then A wait and see if they are refunding me and B dispute as well as they have a fake fake Facebook page that auto generate a message that they are refunding me but when you call them they don't ask for your confirmation number which mine was 24 and then ask you your information to cancel or refund they also as well auto generate another number through email personal number that came up under scammer

Timothy Boyer    September 27, 2021 - 9:08AM

In reply to by Amanda j (not verified)

Fake rental companies were an especially big problem earlier this year. Some of the sites looked like the real thing. Sometimes you can tell its a fake site by clicking on the site's address to see what the https:// shows---if it's not the same as the business name used, it's likely a fake.

Chris (not verified)    September 26, 2021 - 10:56AM

I looked online for a subcompact car near me & found that it was $50 a day at Enterprise. I decided to call their reservation line, because I always feel more comfortable speaking to a person. I told the lady I needed the car for a week and she gave me their least expensive car for $100 a day. I asked for a rate that was closer to what I saw on their website. She said she had nothing less expensive. I asked her to cancel the reservation. She said, well just in case, leave the reservation, your alternate plans might not pan out. She said there was no charge for cancellation. I left the reservation stand, believing I would cancel it within the next two days. On the next day someone from Enterprise called and said my car would be ready. I told him that I'm going to cancel that reservation. He said no problem, I'll cancel it right now. I never received a cancellation notice. So, the following day I checked my reservation notice and clicked modify reservation. It was still active, so I cancelled it. I immediately got a cancellation notification. I'm certainly not impressed with Enterprise nor their shenanigans!

Timothy Boyer    September 27, 2021 - 9:02AM

Yes, this is just like those "Free Trial" advertisements for whatever, that you can cancel anytime---but in reality cannot or at least it becomes very difficult and so you wind up charged the first month or so. I guess the lesson here is to insist on the agent's name whenever making any cancellation, but not sure that will help.

michael (not verified)    September 30, 2021 - 9:27AM

rented a car from enterprise and they told me to return the car to the autobody shop parking lot wich is supposedly 2 seconds down the street from enterprise. I called them after the drop off and told them it was there . they called me the next morning not even the same day and said there was a small dent in the passenger door wich I never put any dents in the car. said It wouldn't be expensive to fix seeing how it was so small. I wanted to see a picture of what they were talking about and they ignored me and just sent a bill of 750 dollars wich is ridiculous for a supposedly "small dent" . I feel like they scammed me and either created a dent or made the small dent wich I never seen on the car worse. this is heard of through out many rental places. all It takes is a scumbag employee to damage the car and take a picture and blame you. id never trust a rental place again

M. Walker (not verified)    July 29, 2022 - 5:25PM

In reply to by michael (not verified)

I see a lot of complaints about Enterprise in these comments. We have used them for rental cars for years, both business and pleasure travel, paying them $1,000s each year. They scammed us with a claim that we put a dent in their car at the Eugene, OR airport. When we dropped off the car there was no dent, and no one to receive the car, even though we asked about turning the car over to an actual person. The counter person told us to just drop the keys in the box. We only took a pic of the odometer (big mistake we will never repeat again). They charged us over $1,500 for a small dent and even contacted our auto insurance company trying to get the money from them. The insurance claim adjuster had also been scammed by Enterprise in the exact same way, also in Eugene, OR. It was not worth the hassle to fight the claim in another state, so we just paid it. However, we will never rent from Enterprise again, so they got a little money from us now but lost out on lots of future money. For what it is worth, we filed complaints with both the FTC and Oregon AG.

Lorraine Mosquera (not verified)    August 7, 2023 - 11:47AM

In reply to by M. Walker (not verified)

I'm going through this right now. At first Enterprise told me that I damaged the car with a chip in it. Now they are claiming the bumper is cracked and get this , there's rust, yes, rust on the hood. Now they are attempting to defraud my personal car insurance company . There was absolutely no damage to the vehicle that I returned. There was a little sand in vehicle as I had taken my grandson to the beach.
I'm so sorry that I didn't take pictures/video of pickup and return of vehicle. I will never use Enterprise again and others need to be warned of their insurance fraud schemes.

Robin Fanning (not verified)    October 1, 2021 - 1:48PM

I think I may have all of you beat. I rented a car from Hertz in SW Fl in 2018 for one month. I have Geico insurance that completely covers auto rentals, and their name is prominently stamped on my contract to be used. On the return day I was told I could drop the car off after hours by leaving the key under the mat. So I did after work. And I filled the car up on the way driving about 4 miles on the tank of gas. Hertz 1. Charged me for 4.1 gals of gas at $146.10 & 2. Charged me $60 "Late return fee" saying after-hours counts as next day 3. My rental charges came to $1554.31 but to my surprise there was an extra $1535.36. No one in their right mind would buy their insurance when you're fully insured already. Their reps get commission on upselling the ins. Whatcha think happened? Same as many many others complain about with this UNREGULATED industry of CROOKS.

It didn't end there. In Jan 2019, now in NW FL, I cut a deal with Corp to live with using my 3 weeks worth of points accumulate from that fully paid 1st rental to rent a car & told I have enough points for a 3-week rental, but I had to go to a Corp airport location (30 mins away) to pick up a car the rep arranged for me. So I took the deal and got the car from the airport only having ot give my name & got the keys. At two weeks in I started receiving phone calls, texts & emails too from a "Recovery Dept" threatening to turn me in for auto theft cuz the car had not been returned after one week. When I explained the corp girl set the deal up for 3 weeks they just said you can only apply points to one week. They said I owe for the 2nd week or must return the car immediately "or else". So I told them to go to you know where and come get the car then as that was not our agreement. It took another week to finally get a tow truck there, and they are charging me for that week too.

It still doesn't end. I started getting threatening emails & letters in the mail that the car had damage to it's front & I owe an additional +$1000 for repairs. Luckily I had pics of the car WITH THE TOW TRUCK IN THE BACKGROUND showing no such damage. I didn't even have to send them the pics. A rep in their Claims Div. consulted with her manager saying i had pics and came back saying the manager agreed to drop the claims, and they did. Didn't even need to see the pics. You can tell she knew their little scam was not going to work on me.

It's still worse. The district mgr in SW Fl issued me two $100 vouchers to rent. So I tried to rent a car again using just one week more of my 2 remaining weeks of points, and/or the vouchers.I couldn't do either because they had blacklisted me with "Do Not Rent To" status. My 2 weeks of remaining points & my $200 in vouchers have expired without me ever being able to use them. Anybody got anything that beats all that?

I searched Florida counties and all across America and see 100 or far more lawsuits against Hertz alone, but others are the same, for just these sort of shearing Gods sheep WHOLESALE. Why is this industry UNREGULATED?

Nicole Ballerstadt (not verified)    October 10, 2021 - 2:41PM

I believe that Enterprise is running a scam, possibly double booking vehicles. I rented a midsized vehicle while my business vehicle was being repaired, reservation confirmed, showed up to location to be told they were sold out. After doing some research this is a common occurrence. There's no way they don't know about this, it's been ongoing for quite some time. I didn't notice a disclaimer during my booking stating that there is a nationwide car shortage and you are not guaranteed a rental. If I ran my business like this, I would of been shut down. I have learned that there are alternatives, such as the Turo app, went on rented a car, absolutely no issues! I highly suggest people check out alternatives to renting. I will never go back to Enterprise. They cost me a good bit of lost business income and ALOT of stress, it's not worth the hassle!

Timothy Boyer    October 11, 2021 - 9:04AM

In reply to by Nicole Ballerstadt (not verified)

Good advice---we should all look into alternatives if not as a backup plan then to possibly show rental businesses that consumers can affect their business as well with these kind of shenanigans. This has been going on long before COVID---remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry told the rental clerk that SHE was the one who did not understand the meaning of what a reservation is?---classic. Seems like airlines are doing the same as well from what I've heard regarding so many cancelled flights becoming more common now---and up to the last minute. Oh well.

Conrad Weaver (not verified)    October 16, 2021 - 11:12AM

Recently I had to get a rental car after I was in an accident that was not my fault. The person who hit me has Allstate insurance. I was told that I would be reimbursed for all rental expenses. Allstate explained that l was to make an appointment with Joe Hudson Collision Center that they would guarantee their work. I was also told that a rental car would be waiting for me there. I made an appointment with the Collision center in Gardendale Ala and informed my contact with Allstate of the day and location of the appointment. I got a e mail from my contact confirming the appointment at another location. I responded that Gardendale was closer to me. My contact stopped responding and I was assigned a new contact. After correcting the location problem I got another confirmation from Allstate. The day of the appointment when I arrived at the place I asked where is the rental car that is supposed to be waiting for me. I was told that Allstate had set my appointment for the week before. They took my truck anyway and told me that I needed to go to enterprise to get the car. I went to the Parkway East location. I was told that since I did not have comprehensive insurance on my 23 year old truck I would need to get their insurance and that Allstate would reimburse me my expenses. I used my Discover card to set up the open ended rental since I did not know how many days it would take for the repairs. After I got the call that my truck was fixed I went to pick it up and was told just to leave the rental car there. I never received a bill from enterprise but had a $747.60 charge on my card. After getting an invoice from enterprise to submit to Allstate I got call from the claims adjuster at Allstate that they would not cover the entire bill. I asked why and was told that I had taken out a damage waver and that they did not cover it. The $329.85 D W on the bill is left for me to pay. I feel that I have been jerked around by Allstate and Enterprise and will never deal with either company again. I have filed a complaint for the charges with Discover card will let y’all know the outcome.

Timothy Boyer    October 17, 2021 - 10:20AM

Sorry to hear the problems, but it is exactly what people need to hear about, so thank you for sharing. I've always been wary of leaving a CC number with these outfits. And yes, please let us know how it turns out.

Ashley (not verified)    October 30, 2021 - 7:35AM

So we rented from avis and got a truck for a month aug. 11 at 2:25 pm to they say sept 11th at 8:30 but was really sept 10th cuz they said if we didnt return it in 15 minutes theyd call the cops and report it stolen even tho it was after hours around 7pm or so and we parked the truck recorded the trucks dash board took pics and recorded walking to the drop box putting the key in it and writing all info including milage on paper and putting that in drop box all as instructed and sending the lady the pics and videos and she says shes sending police to double check and document that its there and here we are at the end of oct and i just was charged over another 1000$ after the original 2700$ ok so heres how theyre wording their charges i got charged in total $3977
The reciept says discount cost 1 month @ $800, misc charges $910, 10.00% recover fee $80, energy recovery fee $6, extension fee $30, late fee $330 sub total $2156 taxes $271.66 total doesnt say but comes to 2427.66 they originally charged $2700 in sept but just now charged another $1300 that has no explanation we didnt get insurance/coverage because we are fully insured it says they didnt charge us their ridiculous 10$/gallon charge for gas cuz we got it at 25.9 returned it at 25.8 dont understand the recovery fees or the late fees or the misc charges we cleaned it out better then when we got it fully vacuumed and washed and waxed no damage and still dont understand where theyre getting their numbers we originally agreed to a compact car at 150 for the week they only had the truck so we were upgraded free of charge then we needed it longer so changed it to the month so the extension charge makes sense it was a ford f150

The real weird thing is before they called us they called my husbands mom (whose name nor number were apart of any of the information that we gave avis seeing as she lives in a whole separate state 2000 miles away and is dealing with alot at the moment) and told her that my husband was renting a vehicle that they needed back and if it was not returned hed go to jail so she calls him at work frantic he of course has no idea how she even knows we have a rental and is telling her its not late to calm down she doesnt know what shes talking about ends up hanging up on her because he got a text and needed to pull the phone away from his ear and it being avis texting saying if its not returned in 15 minutes they were calling the cops he called her and talked her into giving him an hour to finish work he instead rushed to me we took it thru a drive thru cleaner and i had cleaned the inside already had it vacuumed and the interior wiped down earlier planning to return it the next day and we filled it back to a half tank like when we originally got it and then took it to avis so if any of you can explain any of this to me id be very grateful

Timothy Boyer    October 31, 2021 - 4:58PM

This has got to be one of the most bizarre ones I have ever heard of---calling a customer's mother is so unprofessional, especially a large business like this one. I am wondering if AVIS automatically has a collection agency pinged once a rental appears to be arrears or in violation for whatever reason. If this is a collection agency working for AVIS, then this would make sense. I've experienced healthcare businesses using collection agencies to handle collections during a billing process. My understanding is that healthcare agencies find that it is more cost effective for them to hire separate collection agencies than it is to process collections themselves. The rub is that collection agencies get a cut of whatever they can collect and so they resort to all sorts of intimidation tactics to get patients to pay anything over the phone before the patient's insurance provider has even seen the paperwork. Recently I was approached by a collection agency over the phone insisting on payment the day after I was treated at a hospital. Thinking this was a scam, I refused and contacted the hospital only to find out that the collection agency was their hire, but the paperwork had not even been processed yet by the hospital. There was no fault on my part, but that is what collection agencies like to do to pressure people with threats of "a pending lawsuit if you do not reply" phone messaging. Everyone wants to take your money any way they can---it's a sad world we live in. Thank you for sharing your story.

CHEOK TUAN, LI… (not verified)    November 9, 2021 - 8:11AM

Please be very careful when renting a car.
It's my nightmare, also a little fault of my own.
I was renting a car for my Phuket, Thailand trip for this weekend. was offering very low rental rates & I booked.
On top of the normal insurance, they asked if you want a full protection for a price that is slightly higher than the rate for the 2 days rental with free cancellation.
I agreed & booked, thinking that the price shown was for both the car renal together with the full 100% insurance (no hassle).
It turned out that the additional insurance is higher than the rental of the car, making the cost more than double.
I cancelled but they were very prompt with the cancellation.
I checked with another website carflexi & also a good deal with slightly higher price (about %25 higher).
But immediately after confirmation of booking, they sent an email (from that this car was not available.
They offered another similar car from another company at the price that was exactly the same as the rental car bookings that I first made. Right down to the pennies.
I reply to their email that I wanted to cancel the booking. Ask for full refund. Even though I didn't buy the cancellation insurance. But didn't get their reply yet.
As I pointed out that they have confirmed my bookings even though the car was not available.
How irony is all this!?!?
So, please when you're making car rental bookings be very very careful.
Even different websites but looked like they're linked.
No reply yet & I'm not sure if I can get my refund.

Linford Lo (not verified)    November 9, 2021 - 5:18PM

I rented a car recently and got charged to a $600 damage waiver I never agreed to( atleast not knowingly) I have rent a car from that company before, so I know the usual drill, when they ask if I want the damage waiver I told them no, they hand me their tablet to sign to finalize everything. When I get the bill, I see I have been charged for the damage waiver, and it indicated I agreed to the damage waiver??? I called the branch multiple times but they kept saying I signed it and there is nothing they can do when it’s clearly their fault. And my fault too, for trusting them and not reviewing the agreement.

CHEOK TUAN, LIM (not verified)    November 10, 2021 - 3:16AM

In reply to by Timothy Boyer

At least they're not some scamming website.
I threatened to discredit & send complaints about their services & they let me cancel with refunds.
I have yet to receive the refunds though.
Most of the time renting from legal rental car companies with expensive rental is more professional.
& I suggest to do it over the counter at the airport or at the car rental premises.
Well, they're expensive as they have to pay for site rental & labor costs.

Sophia agbaje (not verified)    November 22, 2021 - 3:15AM

In reply to by Linford Lo (not verified)

This exact same thing happened to me. There’s no protection for you. They steal your money and when you complain they ignore you and continue billing your credit card. This was enterprise car rental. 777.34 for insurance I had rental coverage with State Farm. Why can they do this with no consequences.

John (not verified)    November 12, 2021 - 8:39AM

I recently paid for a weekly rental at Fox at the Tampa airport. When the family and I arrived, they stated they could not accept debit cards or deposits, they had to have a major cc. Apparently the rental policy had changed and of course they didn't let me know. They wouldn't accept my wife's cc either. No refunds they repeated. We were out $400 and still didn't have a rental! The people at Fox were unapologetic. Felt totally scammed. Never use Fox!