© 2022 KRCU Public Radio
Southeast Missouri's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Crime & Safety
Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Rental Car Prices Are Skyrocketing, And Scammers Are Taking Advantage

Better Business Bureau

A rental car shortage is causing prices to skyrocket, and scammers have found a clever way to cash in. BBB Scam Tracker is receiving reports of con artists impersonating rental car company representatives, and claiming to be able to get you a deal on your rental. But it’s really a way to trick you into paying hundreds of dollars for a car that doesn’t exist.

Here’s how this scam works: you search for a rental car company online and dial the phone number that appears at the top of the results. A “customer service representative” answers and explains that you are "in luck!," because the company is offering a "special promotion." If you pay for your rental up front using a gift card or prepaid debit card, you can get a significant discount. It seems odd, but the representative insists that the “deal” is a partnership with the gift or prepaid debit card provider. You purchase the cards and share the PIN with the representative. In several reports, the scammer insists that the money didn’t transfer, and you need to purchase another card. But no matter how many cards you buy, the outcome will be the same. The “special offer” is a scam.

Never make payments with prepaid debit cards or gift cards. Scammers prefer these payment methods because there's nothing you can do to get your money back. Remember, legitimate companies almost always accept credit cards as the primary means of payment. Use contact information listed directly on the business's website, instead of relying on an internet search for customer support phone numbers.

Beware of sponsored links. Fake websites sometimes pop up in your web browser’s sponsored ad section and appear at the top of the search results. Be careful when clicking: hover over the URL to be sure it's the right one.

When in doubt, verify special deals directly with the company. If you're unsure about a promotional offer, get the customer service number from the company’s official website. Call the company directly to make sure the deal is real.