Scam Alert: Thieves stealing rental cars upon return - AmericaNowNews.com

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Scam Alert: Thieves stealing rental cars upon return

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    A police report revealed a car buyer intends to press theft charges against the son of a woman who is fronting used car sales from her home for a dealership, a practice called "curb stoning."
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Crooks are ripping-off rental car customers with a bold and costly new scam. And it happens when you return your rental to the dealership.

The tricks thieves use to steal these vehicles can be shockingly brazen Billy found out when he returned a minivan to a rental agency near the LA  airport.

Billy says, "I am approached by a person who I assume was an employee. He's dressed like the other employees. He puts his hand up. He says, go ahead to the first desk, you can't return here right now because the line is too long."

Billy followed the man's directive and went inside and told the desk agent he'd left the minivan, keys and rental agreement with one of the attendants outside.

"She goes, Uh-oh," says Billy, "I can see her start to panic. And then she goes, Sometimes people steal cars from here. And I'm thinking to myself, Really? I go outside with the woman and the vehicle is gone. So I immediately asked the next closest employee. Where is the van and where is the employee? And he goes, He got in the car and reversed out of the driveway. Okay, you saw me get out of the car and someone else get in and take the car away and no one stopped him?"

Billy asked to speak with the manager … who didn't appear until 15 minutes later.

"The manager finally comes out and tells me you need to call 911," says Billy, "Your vehicle is stolen. And I was like, My vehicle? No, this is your vehicle. I bought the insurance. He told me it was my responsibility because I did not officially return the vehicle and cross the metal spikes on their parking lot. I was shaking and in tears because I was told that I was going to be liable for a $30,000 vehicle.

Lt. Alan Hamilton of the LAPD says, "Quite often these rental car places are very, very busy. Especially if you're talking about peak hours. So it's usually very distracting just in and of itself."

And distracted drivers are exactly what thieves look for when trying to pass themselves off as agency employees.

"These suspects, they're opportunists," says Lt. Hamilton, "As soon as he came in that suspect saw his opportunity and he took advantage of that victim."

Billy says, "He knew exactly how this operation worked because I was the last person in line so he knew that he could come to my vehicle because he had the option to back out of this long driveway."

Lt. Hamilton says there are things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a rental car rip-off.

"Make sure you go over the contract and you know what your rights and responsibilities are as a consumer," says Lt. Hamilton, "Know your surroundings. When you're leaving the rental company, when you're returning really your senses should be heightened but you should be aware of who the employees are and make sure that you're handing those keys and that vehicle back to an employee of that rental car agency."

Fortunately for Billy, his ordeal had a happy ending. After waiting more than a month for a decision, he learned the rental car agency would not be holding him financially responsible for the theft of the mini-van.

"I really think I am a smart person who doesn't get tricked very often and I completely got tricked. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," says Billy.

So the next time you rent a car, make sure you are covered for theft. Pretend that car is your own and do everything you possibly can to prevent it from being stolen.

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