You don't answer your phone, do you? You know that if you don't recognize the phone number that there is a solid chance that it is a scam. Wait, let me guess, has your warranty on your car expired? Has your Social Security Number been frozen? Are you being offered a new credit card with a prime rate? I got this last one three times in two days. I block the number. They change the number. The only reason I even answer the phone without knowing who it is is because I am trying to get quotes for work I need done around the house, so needing it done, I really have to answer the phone.

There is a new scam that is targeting people who are so happy to be getting out of the house and travel, post pandemic and it all has to do with rental cars. Are you looking to get away, fly somewhere, then rent a car? Have you looked at the rental car prices? They are crazy right now. Two reasons that rental cars can cost you into the many thousands of dollars for a week, there isn't enough volume of available cars where they are actually needed. Fewer people traveled over the last few months so the cars did not get moved around as much. Then also, car rental places (like Hertz) sold off a bunch of their fleet due to age and trying to reduce their debt. You know how an athlete is considered old when they reach the age of 30? Rental cars age out when their mileage gets to be over 24,000 miles. Translation, they get to be the 30-year-old athletes of the car rental world.

So how are people attempting to scam you? They are relying on you to be shopping online and wanting to pay the lowest prices, so they are betting on the fact that you might want to rent a car from a brand name agency that you have never heard about. You do that and then show up for the car to a place that just does not exist.

A few tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Always pay for your rental car with a credit card. Yes, when you turn the car back in, if you want to pay for it in cash go ahead, but get a receipt. Then, keep the receipt to make sure the authorization hold on your credit card drops off.
  • Never pay for your rental car with a gift card. If someone asks you to reserve or even pay for the car in advance by wiring them money or by using a pre-paid credit card gift card, it is a scam, walk away.
  • Research your rental car company, are they real? If something seems fishy, contact the main customer service number and try to verify everything. Do not hesitate to walk away. Remember this might not be the time to take a chance to save a few dollars.

Enjoy your vacation, I hope that you can find a rental car for your journey and that it will cost you less than a down payment on a home. Have you thought about flying to your destination and then purchasing a used car for while you are away and then donating it to a charity when you leave, driving it back home or having it shipped home? Believe it or not, depending on where you are headed, it could actually save you some money.

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