A Reader Is Being Threatened With Criminal Prosecution By Hertz Over A Car He Never Rented

I’ve argued that Hertz needs to do something pretty basic, even before properly balancing the number of cars they have with the number of rental reservations they accept, and growing their fleet of cars to meet demand. Hertz needs to stop filing false police reports against their customers. Now they’ve got a new issue I haven’t seen before, but that aligns with everything we’ve learned about Hertz the basket case.

Hertz charged a reader full price for a car rental even though he redeemed points. A man spent 5 years in prison because Hertz wouldn’t produce the receipt that proved his innocence. But perhaps the most systematic problem at Hertz is sending customers to prison for stealing cars that they actually returned.

Usually what seems to happen is,

  • A customer changes vehicles or extends their rental
  • The changes doesn’t get reflected properly in Hertz’s systems
  • So it looks like the customer didn’t return the vehicle when they were supposed to
  • Hertz reports it to the police
  • And sticks by their story

Now I’ve heard from a reader with a new twist on being accused of car theft by Hertz. This reader received a letter dated June 29 that they were supposed to return a car to the Las Vegas airport on June 24 and hadn’t done so. This reader tells me they haven’t left the state of California since before the pandemic. They haven’t rented from Hertz in years, and haven’t been to Las Vegas in years.

He also shares,

Four people who I know but do not associate with have received text messages with my name and details regarding a late rental return and an arrest warrant.

They’re trying to reach Hertz. They’ve faced indefinite hold times and their emails aren’t answered. I advised,

  • Write to Hertz, using a delivery service that will obtain proof of receipt
  • Notify them that they’re contacting the wrong person over a missing car rental, that the individual did not rent the car (and was not in Las Vegas to do so, and hasn’t rented other cars from Hertz either)
  • And, having put them on notice, further escalation of the matter will be actionable.

I told them to gather their credit card statements and other documentation of their whereabouts during the time of the rental. (This is complicated by Hertz not telling them when the rental commenced, only when the vehicle was supposedly due back, the VIN number, and that it’s a Hawaii-registered Cadillac.)

I suggested documenting as much about whereabouts as possible, from appointments (people who can corroborate) to driving routes (possible cameras). Basically, gathering as much evidence as possible to show it would have been impossible to rent that vehicle. But – to do this – he does need to know when it was rented.

What other steps would you take?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hire a lawyer and sue them….throwback from the Fissora shit show.that became Hertz.

  2. If it were me, I’d hire a lawyer and the sue Hertz for malicious prosecution. The only way to make this insanity stop is to fight fire with fire. Full stop.

  3. Since he wouldn’t be bound by any arbitration agreement in a contract he didn’t sign, he should file suit against Hertz proactively for declaratory relief, seeking a declaration from the Court that he did not rent the car. And he should also include a cause of action under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code s. 17200 et seq. for fraudulent, unfair, and deceptive business practices. One of the remedies available under 17200 is injunctive relief. Put Hertz on the defensive. Perhaps even seek a preliminary injunction in the writs and receivers department upon filing suit.

  4. Good advice Gary. I’d add to collect any “scans” you do in your daily life (fobbing into an apartment or office for example) and any EZPass or other electronic toll receipts.

  5. @ Gary — Why would someone text four people this person knows? I do not follow. Is this an elaborate scam?

  6. I agree with the people who seem to be attorneys here–sock the company with everything possible. Assuming this is legitimate (and how did they get the information to text other people?) I could see adding defamation of character and libel too. I will say having taught statistics that proving a negative is technically impossible (how can you show you didn’t do something?) but a pile of affidavits on his whereabouts for the past year should go a long way. Anyway, if there truly is an outstanding warrant for him he’d better talk to an attorney really soon. And if there isn’t then maybe he can also get Hertz for making threats and misuse of the legal system. (He’d better check his credit score too.)

  7. The story does sound pretty far fetched, but assuming it’s legitimate, I like @Neal Z’s take on it!

  8. The last time I dealt with Hertz was 2014 after a flight into ORD. With no rental status then, I waited in an interminable line only to be informed that my credit card was no good. Puzzlingly, each one I gave the agent was also declined. Their systems are screwy. I booked a plane jane car at Avis only to be told that for another $5, I could drive away with a new Camaro. I’ve been an Avis customer ever since.

  9. A personal experience with Hertz. I rented a vehicle and had it in my possession as a Gold so only interacted with kiosk booth clerk. I receive e-statement and observed authorization to my on file credit card.
    That same evening I received a 2nd email thinking it was repeat of the first but opened to revealed it showed I rented a 2nd vehicle at 10:23pm and authorized my card again. As I already had a vehicle and home in bed found it shocking.
    Called 800 number which is offshore and after two calls only aggravated me further. Luckily, I was in the same city as picked up vs. drive long distance away and took time off work to get it resolved at Hertz as no one was picking up phone at local number, and didn’t want someone to hit & run or use the 2nd vehicle in a criminal act which traced back to renter on file.
    The agent (very busy at the time) said sorry, and simply voided the 2nd rental. I asked for proof and she didn’t offer any because it was void. I just wrote down her name, time and kept the original e-invoice.
    Nothing came of it and this is after multiple moments of chasing down Hertz because they never checked in a car dropped off on E-receipt lane, including once the CSR had to trace down the car was already rented to someone else but still showed I never returned it,
    Point of my summary these are real life events over the past 2.5 years. I’ve been lucky, but not shocked reading this article.

  10. This article shows that you should ask for a receipt rather than accept a promised e-mail receipt. Actually both is the best.

    If you had a return receipt, you wouldn’t be that guy who when to prison for 5 years even though Hertz was in possession of a receipt showing he returned a car 6 minutes before a murder that was not near the airport. I always fill up the tank so I would have a gas receipt. I use a credit card so further documentation of where I am. (Note: I once was able to prove my location and averted a very bad outcome, though it was not a murder case)

    If you had a return receipt, you might be able to show that you did return a car.

    Another thing… who would want to steal a Hertz piece of junk? Rarely have I thought “I really like this rental car”. At most, it’s average. The last time was a BMW 5 series in Germany, a BMW 520i, which is not sold in the US.

  11. This sounds like a scam. But you leave out, what is Hertz asking the person to do? Contact them? Return the car? Send money to Nigeria via Western Union?

  12. Cell phone records, or just your Google (apple?) location history, orders (anything done electronically), email headers, etc. should make this cut and dry. Unless they lived under a rock they put down digital footprints almost constantly. Challenge hertz to subpoena them as evidence, if they don’t, the fact they don’t should create doubt. Hertz should have some proof they were physically there, if not, it’s their own fault.

  13. “What other steps would you take?” Well first off you said hertz is accusing them of car theft, so I think they would be out of their mind to listen to anything you say in this scenario. You have them writing to Hertz and in the process they could be providing evidence that could be used in a case against them later. Car theft can carry multiple years in prison. You are not a criminal defense lawyer. The only appropriate advice here is for them to consult with an attorney not a travel blogger. The fact that Hertz is contacting multiple people they know indicates there may be something else going on here and they need an attorney with the requisite expertise to protect them and to take legal action for any damages they may sustain during this process.

  14. I would find a lawyer that knows the ins and outs of Cal. Business and Professions Code Sec. 17200, file against Hertz in the customer’s county of residence (the letter was sent to his residence in California, I assume, and perhaps make it a class action with a California only class.

  15. @Bill: exactly my thoughts. This post is as big a fraud as Hertz.

    The reader does nothing until served legally with a demand. Then hires an attorney and Sue’s for fraud, deformation of character, and everything else.

  16. I received an email from Hertz on July 7th, after about 4 months since renting a car and having had returned it, a claim that there was a damage to the vehicle that charged me $4500 for its repair. I initially thought it was a scam so ignored it but then when there was a second email I called the number. The recovery specialist at Hertz Head Quarter office said the claim was written that the vehicle had hit a tree which I have no idea why it was reported that way when there was no such incident and I had returned it as it is after only using it for 10hrs.

    The Hertz specialist didn’t buy whatever I said and her attitude was “prove it and we’ll close this claim.”

    So I had to call the local Hertz rental office where I rented the vehicle in the first place and had its manager dig up my record to verify that any damage there was to the vehicle was pre-rental, pre-existing. The manager at the office remembered me and confirmed that I had returned it with no damage which were backed up by the photos they had taken after the return.

    So I went back to the Hertz Recovery Dpt and explained everything and even asked them to talk to the Manager of the local rental office who admitted there must have been an error.

    Finally after 2 days of all the hassle, without a word of apology, they sent me an email that they’ve talked to the Manager and confirmed there’s been an error so this claim is closed.

    Just like that.

    No apology no shame on them for treating their Gold Reward Membership customer like some criminal who ran away not paying for the damage. Worst part is that I had to work my gut out to prove that I was not to be claimed!

    So be it. This is last time anyone will be hearing the word Hertz from me.
    Never again I am going go use their service.

  17. This smacks of those phone calls my mother occasionally gets with a scary voice telling her she will be arrested unless she calls the “IRS” immediately at the following phone number and pays her overdue taxes. I’d look very closely at any communication and cross-check that it’s really Hertz threatening him. A company would never contact your friends by text regarding your imminent arrest. Smells like a scam.

  18. ” A company would never contact your friends by text regarding your imminent arrest. Smells like a scam.” I can assure you if there is an arrest warrant hertz isn’t texting people that information and the police aren’t going to be texting a bunch of people like that. To quote the movie Michael Clayton when he was asked if that was the police calling on the phone his response, “no, they don’t call”. This fact pattern makes little to no sense. Something is being left out of the story.

  19. I had a similar experience that never escalated to this point in March. It was just as travel was picking back up and cars were getting expensive again. I found a great deal for an SUV on Priceline with Budget. The morning I was supposed to pick up the car, I found a better deal on an economy car with Alamo and booked it. I cancelled the other rental on Priceline en route to my destination and picked up the car at the Alamo facility at my destination.

    Early the following week–two days after my rental with Budget was supposed to have ended–I started getting automated phone calls from Budget that I needed to return the car. I thought it was a glitch and ignored the first call. Then I received another one at the same call the next day and another the next day. I looked at my Budget account and saw that I had “rented” a Subaru Outback that was still out, but Priceline showed no active reservation. In addition, Budget was charging my Visa card hundreds of dollars a day for the rental. I called Budget’s number, which was no help. I tweeted Budget and got no response. I finally called the Budget office at the destination and explained the situation. “Are you sure you never picked up the car?” the guy asked. I told him I cancelled the reservation and had proof, plus I had proof of another rental at the same time. I got a case number and a promise that they would start an investigation.

    No one ever contacted me, but the phone calls stopped the next day, the charges to my credit card were removed, and the rental disappeared from my rental. To this day, I don’t know what happened. I assume the car was given to another renter, but somehow my name and reservation number stayed with it.

    The lesson: ALWAYS cancel a rental you will not use. There have been times in the past I have failed to cancel a rental for a car I did not pick up. I did this time, but if I had not, I would have had to do a lot more to prove I did not actually rent the car.

  20. Had a horrible rental experience with hertz. Filed a complaint in January this year. Haven’t heard back from anyone as of now.

  21. @derek does not know how to read?
    How do you ask for a rental receipt when you never rented a car?

  22. I just rented from Hertz for the last time….ever.

    the company is a nightmare. If you need roadside assistance..FORGET ABOUT IT! They send you into a que to receive a call from an ES team that will never call you. yes that is right…you will be on the roadside…forever. Hertz is a COMPLETE shit show right now. Stay away

  23. I would think cell phone records would help prove where you are and prove you were not where Hertz said you were.

  24. Interesting ….. your post and the comments. Please keep us posted as to how this turns out. Thanks.

  25. Jason…. I have AAA but either way… I rented from an airport.. How do I know where to tow it? SOOO I had it towed on my AAA card (which is another company with looong hold times) to the closest Hertz branch to where I was. I get a call from the manager of that branch the next morning saying that he will close out my rental but it had a $175 drop fee on it; I explained the airport is 80 miles away and I did not know if a tow truck could tow the car to the airport garage. The next thing he said was I should call Hertz back and have the ES (Emergency Roadside) team create a number. So.. I call back..still waiting because when you call a “concierge” sets up a call for the ES team to call you back. I also had to Uber back to the hotel that night since I had no car. This was a nightmare situation and I bet many others have Hertz stories like this. For now I am still on the hook for the drop fee. Maybe Monday someone form Hertz will call me. Also… their team on FB messenger is useless. If no one calls I will get to the airport early on Tuesday to discuss with Hertz, I am sure it will go nowhere.

  26. I would bet this is a scam. I’d be interested to know what “Hertz” is asking for. Is it money or return of the vehicle? The biggest clue is the supposed texts from acquaintances. If the real Hertz is doing that, it probably violates the fair debt collection statutes of every state that has one. Is the victim calling or email the real Hertz or the number and email address on the communication?

    I would also contact the police where the arrest warrant has supposedly issued to either verify that there is none or try to clear it up. If there is truly an outstanding warrant, the reader doesn’t want to find out that it’s real when he’s picked up by his local police executing it.

  27. This sounds like either a scam. If you do not return your they are not going to mail you a letter. They certainly are not going to be texting people who have no immediate relationship to you or have any part of the “rental”. I would love to see the letter he received. I suspect the phone number is not a real Hertz number. If it was and he was calling to return a missing car, I am pretty sure it would be a special call que that would get answered. I would shred it and forget it.

  28. The lesson here is very clear: Do not rent from Hertz, do not do any business with Hertz. EVER!

  29. Good thing she wasn’t black. Otherwise there would be fiery mostly “peaceful protests”.

  30. Sounds like a scam but regardless, simply call Hertz’s corporate office, ask for the General Counsel, and speak to hin directly.

  31. You people don’t realize the truth: This is Hertz’s BRILLIANT strategy to get you to rent from them.

    After all, if you’re going to be charged with a crime when you DIDN’T rent from them, then you might as well rent from them!!

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