12 News Investigates: How to avoid rental car scams

12 News Investigates

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Affordable rental cars may be hard to find this summer. When the coronavirus pandemic started, many companies sold their fleets because no one was traveling.

Luis Villanueva often rents cars to get around. However this time, he spent more on a car than a plane ticket.

“It’s around $600 more than my flight for three days,” said Villanueva. “On average, I usually pay $200 and now $600.”

While Villanueva traveled for business, Debbie McConnell had no trouble getting her car this time around, but last week was different story.

“We were in Hawaii last week. They had a shortage of rental cars. We had a Jeep and we tried to return for a different car, and we ended up getting another Jeep because there were no rental cars there,” said McConnell.

If you go to any airport parking lot, you’ll see it’s empty. Scammers are taking advantage of the rental car shortage and the desperation of people trying to rent one. 

The two people we talked to are savvy travelers and haven’t been scammed, but if you don’t travel often, watch out for sites that offer a deep discount for car rentals if you pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card.

“What they were finding out is that when they showed up at their destination, they were out the money. There was no car for them to rent or they had to pay a lot more money to get a last minute rental car,” said John O’Hara, CEO Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Mississippi.

According to the BBB, gift cards are no different than cash and that legit companies will allow you to use your credit card.

“The reason being with a credit card if you do not get the item, worst case, you can contest it saying, ‘I never received the item.'”

You can also always make phone calls to make sure any deal is real. 

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