OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) that serves Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa, says scammers are targeting people who are looking for a deal on rental cars. With demand for rental cars high and supply short, higher prices may tempt some shoppers into their trap.
Often, victims find themselves prey to the scammers after dialing the first number that appears at the top of search results. Once on the line, scammers claiming to be genuine representatives say they can get the caller a better deal if they pay with prepaid cards for a car that never existed.
"We're dealing with very sophisticated criminals. They're well funded, they've got IT professionals, they've got graphic artists, they create very legitimate-looking sites," local BBB president and CEO Jim Hagerty said.
Victims are falling into the trap.
“They said there was a special deal with American Express to get the rate (normally much higher), and informed me to purchase a gift card to get the discount,” said one victim. “Once I purchased the card and gave the code, they transferred the money.”
The woman was promised a car at a train station where she was waiting but it never showed up.
To avoid being scammed, the BBB suggested following these tips:
- Never make payments with prepaid debit cards or gift cards. A request that you do so should be a giant red flag that a scammer is trying to steal your money. Don’t believe their claims that it’s a special promotion. Legitimate companies always accept credit cards as payment, and you are always safer using one in case disputes arise.
- Be sure you are on a business’s real website then look for their customer support phone number while there. Don’t trust the first search results you get online.
- Fake websites are easy for crooks to set up. Verify that the company is legitimate and has a positive marketplace history by visiting bbb.org
- Check separately with the company if you are told they are offering a special deal by getting their customer service number (from their official site) and calling it.
- Remember that rental car locations near airports are less likely to have cars available. Look for their locations elsewhere in the city or town.
- Use discounts that may be available to you such as through AAA, AARP, Costco and your credit card companies.
- Check into package deals when booking a flight that also include the rental car. Do it as early as possible.
The BBB said rental car shortages are predicted to last well into the summer.
To report a scam or see if there are reports in your area visit bbb.org/scamtracker.