Scam Alert: Watch Out for ‘Cheap’ Rental Cars

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As if the rental car shortage wasn’t enough to contend with, money expert Clark Howard wants to warn you about a new scam affecting people looking to book cheap car rentals.

Clark says, “People are getting taken big-time.”

In this article, I’ll share Clark’s advice on how to avoid falling victim to scammers whose cons are different but whose “asks” are all the same: They want you to send money via a payment app.

Let’s look at the rental car scam as a prime example.

Here’s How the Rental Car Ruse Works

“You often might do a Google search looking for a car rental and something will pop up like ‘Avis on special,’ or Hertz or whoever,” Clark says. “And you click on the link and you think you’re on a valid link for one of the major car rental companies.”

But as you scan the website, you soon see that the cheap car rental is a special where you have to prepay in order to get the deal.

“And how do you prepay? It’ll be with something like Venmo, or CashApp or Zelle or some prepaid card that you can buy at the drugstore, Walmart or whatever,” Clark says.

And he says you may even get a confirmation number, so it all seems legit.

Fast forward to your arrival at the rental car office: “You show up at the counter and they tell you what the price will be and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, I prepaid it!’” Clark says.

“And people don’t even know they’ve been taken until they’ve already traveled across the country and get to the car rental counter,” Clark says.

Car Rental Scam: How Not To Get Taken for a Ride

One easy way to avoid this car rental scam is not to pay for a product or service with Zelle, CashApp or Venmo.


Those three payment apps in particular don’t have any policies in place to replace money you’ve been scammed out of.

“The problem with Zelle, CashApp and Venmo is there are no consumer protections in the law at all for those three,” Clark says.

That’s not to say that the apps have no use whatsoever. “It’s fine to use them when giving money to your nephew for graduation or splitting the restaurant check with a friend and you’re paying them back for your share of the meal,” he says.

Final Thought

Clark is adamant that you should use these three payment apps only conditionally: If it’s a business of any kind or an unknown person, don’t use Zelle, CashApp or Venmo.

“When you’re paying a person you know, it’s fine to pay with those apps — but not a business,” he says.

Furthermore, if a stranger or business asks to be paid through a payment app or with some kind of prepaid card or stored value card, “The odds are virtually 100 % that you’re about to be scammed,” Clark says.

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