Summer travel season is right around the corner, but you might want to think twice before renting a car.
The station talked to multiple people, including Dina Johnson, who was detained for approximately seven hours while returning to the United States from a trip to Canada.
Border patrol agents noticed the car was reported stolen, so they stopped Johnson to investigate. It was eventually determined that the vehicle belonged to another rental car company and someone had mistakenly returned it to Hertz. The mix up went unnoticed and Johnson was eventually given the ‘stolen’ car.
While being detained isn’t fun, getting arrested is even worse. That’s what happened to Michelle Jones who rented a car from Hertz and then returned it. Approximately two and a half months later, she was arrested and jailed for ‘stealing’ it. Thankfully, she kept the paperwork showing the car was actually returned.
A Hertz spokesperson told the station that these events are “extremely rare” and “the result of unique and extenuating circumstances.” However, it appears to happen somewhat regularly in the rental car industry. According to Walt Zalisko, a former security director for Avis/Budget, he could recall at least 20 times – in four to five years – where the company gave customers cars that were listed as stolen.
So how can you prevent being pulled over at gun point for ‘stealing’ a car you rented? Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. However, Zalisko suggested people who want to extend their rental contact the company and inform them about their plans. Customers might not think keeping a car for an extra day or two would be a big issue, but the rental company might assume you’ve stolen it since the vehicle wasn’t return on time.
That being said, there’s not much you can do if an employee lists a car as stolen and then doesn’t update the status once it has been returned. As a result, the next customer who gets that car could be in for a big, and extremely unpleasant, surprise.