Car rental scams, lottery and Nigerian scams, and collection agency scams: Internet ScamBusters #271
Today we share some of the best stories and advice from subscribers that we've collected over the couple of few months. You'll find ideas about:
- Car rental scams
- Lotteries and Nigerian scams
- Collection agency scams
These subscriber feedback issues are important for two reasons:
1) they provide real examples that the things we warn you about really do happen; and
2) often subscribers offer helpful additional tips you can use. (By the way, we've recently received so much subscriber feedback that we're not going to wait long to do another issue like this.)
Car rental scams
We got a boatload of feedback to issue #264, Don't Let Car Rental Companies Take You for a Ride.
You'll find some of the most useful comments below.
Here's an interesting story from Alan. It made us angry and illustrates how important it is to be informed:
My mother and I almost got scammed by the [name of car rental agency] rental outlet at Albuquerque, NM, airport in 2005.
It was about 4:30pm in the afternoon and we had been up since 4:00am flying in from Toronto, Canada. Our connecting flight from Denver was two hours late, and we were getting tired and irritable.
We had pre-booked and prepaid for a compact car for the time we would be there (about ten days) through our travel agent (CAA). Prior to going, the agent told us to have our auto insurers add CDW coverage to our policies, which would cover us if we had an accident with a rental car. We added the coverage.
When we went to pick up the car, the agent asked us if we wanted the additional collision insurance. We said we had CDW on our policies and did not need it.
Since we were from out of state (Canada), he told us that "[Name of car rental agency] does NOT recognize out of state insurance because there are so many and all are different. We only recognize our own." If we wanted to rent the car, we would have to take out the extra insurance or we would be personally liable for any damage to the vehicle.
My mother had a letter from the insurance company stating she had CDW and was covered for any accidents with a rental vehicle. He refused to even look at it, again stating that "[Name of car rental agency] does not recognize out of state insurance policies. They would only recognize their own." The added insurance brought the price up from about $450 to over $900.
He dwelled on the fact we would NOT be covered in case of an accident unless we bought the insurance.
My mother was getting very tired and irritable (and she was also in her early 70's, so she probably looked like an easy mark) and finally gave in and signed the contract because she felt that he was NOT going to rent us the car unless she took out the insurance.
Later that evening, I figured out that we could do all of our traveling for under $200 using public transit and taxis, and I was quite mad at how she'd been taken. The next morning we phoned CAA and told them the problem. They contacted [Name of car rental agency], who offered to rewrite the contract for us. The car was returned and we only ended up paying $43 for the time we had it.
The manager was "very apologetic" (probably sorry he got caught) and this year when we went, we did everything by public transit again and saved a bundle.
It's quite obvious to me that the tactics were to take advantage of an old woman who was tired of the traveling and just wanted to get the car and go. I'm sure they take seniors and foreigners -- who can be easily confused -- for bundles.
If we had known they couldn't refuse to rent the car without us buying the insurance, we would have taken the car without insurance. We didn't know that.
One other thing -- if you have a camera, take photos all around the car when you pick it up. It will make it harder for the car rental agency to charge for any dents and dings that are already there.
We heard from several subscribers regarding the following car rental issue -- here's David's story:
I'd like to comment on your email involving car rental companies, specifically the collision damage waiver.
The last time I rented a car, I declined this waiver because my own car insurance covered it. When I brought this to the attention of the car rental agent, she pointed out the fact that although I was covered for damages, I would still be charged a daily rental fee each day the car was out of service.
This would continue until the car was repaired and put back into service, unless I bought their collision waiver, which supposedly waived this fee.
This is called "loss of use" insurance, and can cost something like $10-12 a day!
Your article was fascinating and undoubtedly useful, but left out one that we got hit with twice in about six weeks. Possibly you never ran into it yourselves.
It involves the unnamed (but probably biggest-name and best-known, almost a generic name) supplier of rental trucks and small utility trailers, typically used for moves. That practically names them, I imagine.
My son and daughter each had to move late last fall, and in each case we agreed to pay the truck rental charges for them on our Visa, since although I'm on a fixed income, I do have an excellent long-standing history with Visa (through my own bank).
In each case, the charges included a $5 reservation fee. And in each case, we had to cancel because the company had no (or an incorrect) record of where the vehicle was to be picked up.
The company would not budge either time on crediting back that fee, even though the last-minute cancellations were due to their own errors. I didn't pursue this further due to the small amounts, but it should be added to your warnings.
Lotteries and Nigerian scams
We received a funny email from Ken. However, we are including his email primarily because of the PS -- since we agree it's definitely worth a mention in this newsletter.
I'm a very lucky fellow.
Today, I learned that a German engineer left me over $30 million dollars via a codicil in his will.
Not only that, I also won a British lottery to the tune of 891,934 Great British Pounds.
Not to mention another prize of one million Great British Pounds.
And not only that, but someone wants me to stand in for the late Libyan engineer, [name deleted].
I am so, so lucky. Surely God knows that I go to the right church. And now I have to wonder what tomorrow will bring.
PS. ScamBusters should mention that anytime someone asks for your age (to find out how easy it would be to befuddle you) or your occupation (to make a rough estimate of your net worth to learn how much they can scam you for), don't tell them. This might be worth a mention in your newsletter.
Editors Note: We agree. This is NOT harmless information -- scammers are very clever using any information you give them. They also make assumptions based on stereotypes -- which, of course, are not necessarily true.
Collection agency scams
We got a lot of feedback on our article on zombie debt and collection agency scams.
Here's a chilling tale from Martha -- it shows you the things we warn you about really do happen:
FYI! Last week I received a bill from a collection agency for $25 for a physician co-pay at a hospital on 12/22/05. They had all my personal information and knew the insurance coverage I had at the time.
I called the hospital, and they reported that there NEVER was this doctor by this name on staff. Nor was I in the system for that time period! Really scary.
I turned this case over to the US Postal Service for investigation of mail fraud, which is a Federal crime. I sent the collection agency a certified letter and was advised to send a copy to all three credit reporting agencies.
We believe these scammers either hacked into the hospital's computer system or it was an inside job! Thanks for prior warning.
That's a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!