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Going through a reputable agency is a safe bet if you plan to rent a car while you’re away any time soon. But with the increased demand for rentals, scammers are pouncing. And even if you don’t fall for a scam, there’s another way you might be putting your info at risk.
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Scammers smell an opportunity
Rental car companies offloaded inventory during the pandemic, and it can still be tough to find a rental in some places during popular travel times.
Cybercriminals can boost search term rankings to ensure that fake rental agencies appear high in search results. When an unsuspecting victim enquires about available rentals, the scam is set in motion.
A “customer service representative” will offer you a special deal in one popular variation of this scam. You’ll get a steep discount if you pay by gift card or prepaid debit card.
You purchase the cards and share your PIN with the phony representative. The scammer then tells you that the money didn’t transfer and that you’ll need to buy another card.
Of course, the rental company is a fake and will make off with the untraceable money in a flash.
Never make payment for anything using a gift card or prepaid debit card. No genuine company will insist that you use that method of payment.
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A simple mistake everyone makes with rental cars
When you rent a car, you probably use Bluetooth or a charging cable to sync your smartphone with the vehicle. It makes sense so you can play music, get directions, or take a call while driving.
Here’s what most people don’t think about: The moment you sync your phone with a rental car, your contacts, locations, music subscriptions, social media, and text messages are transferred over to the car’s onboard computer.
The following person who rents that car has access to all your data. Yikes. Rental companies routinely sell vehicles from their fleets, so you never know where your info will end up.
Before you return a rental car, remove your phone from the paired devices. Better yet, if there is a factory reset option, select that. It will erase any data stored on the car’s computers.
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How to avoid rental car scams
Here are a few more tips to keep you (and your wallet) safe:
- Use the contact information listed directly on a business’s website instead of relying on an internet search for customer support phone numbers.
- Beware of sponsored links. Fake websites sometimes pop up at the top of the search results. Be careful when clicking. Hover over the URL to check that it looks legitimate.
- When in doubt, verify special deals directly with the company. If you’re unsure about a promotional offer, get the customer service number from the company’s official website. Call them directly to make sure the deal is real.
Keep your tech-know going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
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