Planning to rent a car? Read this first.

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Watch out for car rental scammers before renting a car for vacation. (Photo: Getty)

After more than a year of home ordering, the country can’t wait to go on holiday. But before looking for a rental car for your summer vacation, be aware of scammers.

That’s because they know how hard is it to track down a rental car this summer. The scam usually occurs when people search online for a phone number or a website to book a car rental. However, with the scam, the phone number or website leads to people who claim to be representatives of car rental companies when in fact they are scammers.

Other scams include: fake ads for rental car portals that look legit, as well as phishing emails that appear to come from real car rental companies asking for personal information. A Search from the Better Business Bureaus Scam tracker exposes various scams that trick customers into paying for car rental reservations that don’t exist.

There have been car rental scams with greater frequency, probably because of the car rental shortage and vaccinated adults and families who are happy to book car rental for vacation. In some cases, an unwitting customer searching for rental cars on their smartphone will receive geotargeted ads from whatever search platform they are using, leading to a website that appears to be a legitimate car rental site. The search ads sometimes contain what appears to be authentic information and toll-free numbers.

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Car rental scams are on the rise, probably due to the current shortage of car rentals and people eager to go on vacation.  (Photo: Getty)

Car rental scams are on the rise, probably due to the current shortage of car rentals and people eager to go on vacation. (Photo: Getty)

“I was looking online for a rental car for a trip I was on,” a Michigan consumer posted to the Better Business Bureau. Scam tracker website. “I found deals I liked and [a] phone number [for a car company]. I called and spoke to a guy… who asked me for a prepaid card, so I did it for $400. [The scammers] told me it wasn’t going to go through so I had to get a second one…I realized that [it] looked like a scam.”

To access the special rates, users are asked to purchase a prepaid gift card. Scammers trick people into doing this by telling callers that it’s the only way to get the low prices (which just happen to be reserved by phone). On the next call, they will be told to confirm the gift card PIN over the phone, at which point the scammers will provide a fake rental confirmation number.

Car rental companies have tried to warn consumers about these scams, often paying for the fake reservation with prepaid gift cards. Updated a major car rental company the gift card section in the FAQ to add a warning to potential renters that the company will never ask for credit card information over the phone or require gift cards to secure a lease. The rental company also went a step further in creating a special warning page for customers about the matter.

Another major rental car company warned of phishing scams in its FAQ, and said these emails “use fake ‘From’ addresses, realistic-looking logos and company images and web links,” adding: “Even the smartest consumers can be convinced they are dealing with a legitimate request for personal or sensitive information.”

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Learn the warning signs of rental car scams, including phishing emails.  (Photo: Getty)

Learn the warning signs of rental car scams, including phishing emails. (Photo: Getty)

Having extra protection and being alert can help, as scammers’ sites look and feel like local, independent car rental companies. Some of these websites are so advanced that visitors can select a car model, rental length, and city. But these sites can also have the telltale signs of being scammed, such as poor grammar and spelling. This wording can often be found in the “About Us” section of the site.

Car rental news reports that corporate security agents have identified car rental scam sites coming from servers in Ukraine and India. The publication revealed that the ad format used by the fake sites is technically within the search engine’s ad parameters – a gray area that means the advertiser is not violating its stated ad policies.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds consumers on its website that “gift cards are for gifts” and encourages people who may be targeted by scammers to avoid the attempted ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC also suggests that consumers try to recover their money from the gift card companies themselves. Made the desk a resource complete with frequently requested contact information from gift card companies, as a reference.

Buy it: Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, 30-day free trial, then $4.99 per month, subscriptions.yahoo.com

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