Before you rent a car for Memorial Day weekend, read this

·5-min read

Yahoo Life, part of the Verizon Media family of brands, is committed to finding you the best products at the best prices. Some of the products written about here are offered in affiliation with Verizon Media. We may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Before renting a car for vacation, watch out for car rental scammers. (Photo: Getty)
Before renting a car for vacation, watch out for car rental scammers. (Photo: Getty)

After more than a year of stay-at-home orders, the country can't wait to go on vacation. But before you start searching for a rental car for Memorial Day weekend or other upcoming summer vacations, be aware of scam artists.

That's because they know how hard it is to track down a rental car this summer. The scam typically occurs when people search for a phone number online or a website to book a car rental. However, with the scam, the phone number or website leads to people who claim to be reps of rental car companies when, in fact, they're actually scam artists.

Other scams involve fake ads for rental car portals that look legitimate, as well as phishing emails that appear to come from real rental car agencies requesting personal information. A search of the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker reveals several scams that involve tricking customers into paying for car rental reservations that don’t exist.

Car rental scams have been occurring with greater frequency, likely due to the car rental shortage and vaccinated adults and families eager to book car rentals for vacation. In some cases, an unwitting customer searching for rental cars on his smartphone receives geotargeted ads from whatever search platform he's using, which leads to a website that appears to be a legitimate car rental site. The search ads sometimes feature what seems to be authentic information and toll-free numbers.

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

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

"I was online looking to get a rental car for a trip I was taking," a Michigan consumer posted on the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker website. "I found deals I liked and [a] phone number [for a car company]. I called and spoke with a man... who requested I get a prepaid card, so I did for $400. [The scammers] told me it wouldn't go thru so I had to get a second one...I realized [it] seemed like a scam."

To access the special rates, users will be told to buy a prepaid gift card. Scammers entice people to do this by telling callers that it's the only way to get the low prices (that coincidentally can only be reserved over the phone). In the next call, they're told to confirm the PIN of the gift card over the phone, and at that point, the scammers will provide a bogus rental confirmation number.

Car rental companies have attempted to warn consumers of these scams, which often involve paying for the fake reservation with prepaid gift cards. One major car rental company updated the gift card portion in its 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 rental. The rental company also took things a step further in creating a dedicated alert page for customers on the issue.

Another major car rental company warned about phishing scams in its FAQ, saying these emails "use false 'From' addresses, realistic-looking logos and corporate graphics, and web links," adding: "Even the savviest consumers can be convinced they are dealing with a legitimate request for personal or sensitive information."

In general, it's a good idea to install software, such as Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device, that can help provide robust protection against new and existing dangers to your device — and your identity. Malwarebytes Premium Multi-Device helps find and blocks threats, proactively protecting you from accessing malicious websites, online scams, and phishing attacks specially designed to steal your sensitive information such as login credentials and credit card numbers.

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

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 some added protection and being on alert can help since the scam artist sites look and feel similar to local, independent car rental broker businesses. Some of these websites are so sophisticated that visitors can select a car model, rental length, and city. But these sites also may have the telltale signs of a scam, such as poor grammar and spelling. This wording is often found in the “About Us” section of the site.

Auto Rental News reports corporate security agents have identified car rental scam sites like these as originating from servers in Ukraine and India. The publication found the ad format used by the fake sites technically falls within the search engine's ad parameters — a gray area that means the advertiser is not in violation of stated advertising policies.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds consumers on their website that "gift cards are for gifts" and encourages people who may have been targeted by scammers to report the attempt to ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC also suggests consumers try and recover their money from the gift card companies themselves. The agency created a resource, complete with commonly sought after gift card companies' contact information, as reference.

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

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day

Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting