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Rental car scams: Renting a car this summer? Only scammers will ask you to pay with a gift card. #Scam Free Summer. Image of red car and mobile phone with image of gift card on screen.

The weather is getting warmer, and you might be itching to travel again. The mountains, the beach, and the trails are calling you — and everyone else. At least that’s what it feels like when you start looking into renting a car. With rental car availability at an all-time low, prices are sky high. So, if you suddenly find an available car at a cheap price, you might be dealing with scammers looking to cash in on the rental car shortage.

Scammers are posing as rental car companies, setting up their own websites, and advertising fake customer service phone numbers, all to convince travelers they’re legit. Then, they’re asking people to pre-pay for the rental — with a gift card or prepaid debit card. To avoid rental car scammers driving off with your money:

  • Research the rental car company by searching for the name of the company and words like “scam,” “complaint,” or “review” to check if other people have had a bad experience.
  • Verify deals with the company directly. If you need customer support, look for contact info on the company’s official website. Don’t use a search engine result. Scammers can pay to place sponsored ads in search results, so they show up at the top or in the sponsored ad section.
  • Pay with a credit card if possible, and never pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. You can dispute credit card charges, but gift cards and prepaid debit cards can disappear like cash. Once you give the number and PIN to a scammer, the money is gone.

Before you rush to book that miraculously available rental car, take a beat and read up about things you should consider when renting a car. If you spot a rental car scam, tell the FTC at

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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Lester Harris
June 15, 2021
Why are gift cards allowed to exist? They are used mostly by scammers because they cannot be traced.
June 15, 2021

In reply to by Lester Harris

They have their uses. Last year, I ordered a gift card from a supermarket for a friend (it was mailed to her) because she was having difficulty paying for food for herself & her cat that month. She lives 600 miles away, so I couldn't drop by & take her shopping.
June 15, 2021

In reply to by Lester Harris

Many people use gift cards legitimately as gifts at major holidays or birthdays, graduations, etc. Using them wisely and legally is something we can continue to do. However, if a scammer or anyone asks for a gift card as payment for something, be very careful. Follow this well known advice: " If it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true."
D. Sharma
June 15, 2021
The information shared here is really informative and all must be alert in such circumstances.I appreciate FTC for this.Really, thanks a lot.
August 20, 2021
This isn't a scam per se but it is a deceptive business practice: A couple of months before my trip I reserved a car with Enterprise through Expedia and it came out to a daily rate of ~$70 per day. The week of my trip I decided I wanted to pick up the car one day earlier. I called Enterprise and they said no problem. However when I picked up the car the daily rate was now more than double what I was originally quoted, not just for the additional day but for the entire existing reservation as well. Apparently when you modify a reservation they use that as an opportunity to change the whole reservation to the current daily rate.
October 25, 2021
Instead of warning about this minor piggyback fraud issue, FTC needs to investigate the rental car companies for price gouging. Rental car rates are inflated way more than justifiable by shortages. I had to travel due to an emergency recently and received offers from the major companies for >$500 total for just two days rental ! FTC, do your job !