Hertz Is Falsely Reporting Cars Stolen, Landing Renters in Jail

Last May I wrote about a Hertz system glitch causing the rental company to report some cars stolen even though they were properly rented out. Their customers were getting arrested. In a few cases they’ve faced police with guns drawn by police. And at the time there was at least one documented case of a customer serving two weeks in prison.

Apparently the practice continued even after I wrote about it even though Hertz had already paid out damages to some of the victims. The stories seem to have a common thread involving switching out of the originally-assigned vehicle, or extending a rental, where Hertz employees didn’t properly complete the paperwork for the transaction.

A new lawsuit has been filed by some of the victims. One plaintiff had a vehicle reported stolen two weeks after I covered the Hertz practice. He had extended a truck rental by phone and “has phone records and recordings that document the calls.” Yet now he’s in the same position as Hertz itself, bankrupt.

But as May drew to a close, Hertz reported the truck stolen and accused Ayoub of grand theft auto. Police arrested Ayoub at his home in Deptford and seized the pickup. The arrest sent him to jail for four months. The time behind bars left him broke.

“I have not been able to work,” said Ayoub, 39. “I take on odd jobs. I live with my parents. I don’t even have a vehicle right now.”

Since he was able to prove he paid for the rental criminal charges were dropped. Yet he and others are suing,

The 20 plaintiffs in the Delaware case said that they presented evidence to the company documenting their payments, but that Hertz has refused to withdraw the stolen-vehicle reports.

A Hertz spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, said that payments or even the eventual recovery of the car did not wipe away what it views as the original theft.

Some of the stories are truly insane.

  • A frequent renter drove a Ford Mustang convertible for two months (extending the rental several times), returned it, and paid his bill. It was reported stolen. He traveled back to Florida to contest the charges, with proof of payment. Hertz no-showed the hearing. When he was stopped for a travel violation eight years later he was taken into custody on the outstanding warrant. He was held 40 days, including being transported back to Florida, before charges were dropped.

  • Another customer rented a car that Hertz had already reported stolen. He was arrested in front of the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas for stealing the Toyota Corolla that Hertz flagged as missing six days before the start of his rental contract.

  • Still another person who rented from Hertz, and extended her contract, faced police when the company failed to log the extension. She was taken into custody. And “[b]ecause she was on probation for an unrelated theft conviction, Higgs was held in jail for 37 days” before pleading no contest in order to be released.

The lawsuit is available here

Four years ago Hertz informed me that reservations for their cars are never guaranteed. Apparently that’s true even after you pick up your rental.

Hertz was once the rental company for business travelers. In this extended montage from Up in the Air when George Clooney is grounded in Omaha he wants to buy a Chrysler Sebring from Hertz. The part they didn’t show was Clooney getting arrested when Hertz failed to file paperwork on the sale.

Four years ago Avis was going after Hertz on Twitter, offering customers discounts, upgrades, and status matches. Maybe it’s time to fire up the old marketing engine and do that again, along with a promise not to send customers renting Avis cars to jail?

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. This actually happened to me. My car was hit in the parking lot, police were called, Hertz in Burlington, VT told the police the car was stolen. Total BS, eventually worked it out but even after complaining to both the local Hertz station and practically yelling at Hertz corporate I was given the cold shoulder. That was about a year ago and THE LAST TIME I have rented with Hertz (I travel weekly and choose National now.

  2. Good to know that. Until they find how the glitch happened and fix it, I will not rent from Hertz.

  3. @ Nathan – Cold shoulder would be if they put you on their Do Not Rent list. As for National/Alamo/Enterprise, they’re bad just in other ways. If you forget your belongings in one of their cars, expect it to be picked over before it’s returned to you. Not even a keychain is so minor as to escape their employees’ sticky fingers.

  4. Hertz used to be better, but I’ve since moved onto National. They have great rates with the company where I work, I always get to pick my car, and it’s zero hassle getting out of the airport, even at places like JFK.

  5. Thankfully I wasn’t arrested in my situation
    However I received a bill for thousands if dollars for a car I returned in perfect condition in ATL
    It stated that I had totaled the car and along with a bill for the costs for repairs to the body, towing fees and time lost for not being able to rent the vehicle 🙁
    Except for the fact I returned the car and went straight away to board
    my flight shortly after the returning the car
    I did have to escalate to corporate but at least they were responsive thanks to a contact I knew at the time who sorted the nightmare out

  6. @ Chancer. I’m OK with them picking my stuff if I forget it in general. No hard feelings, kind of like a ‘stupid’ tax.

  7. Uber.

    Lyft.

    Do not rent cars.

    Uber.

    Lyft.

    Do

    Not

    Rent

    Cars

    …but do National or Silvercar if you must

  8. Good to know. Actually, filing a false police report is a crime. Shouldn’t some people at Hertz itself be in trouble with the police over this? Lame apologies and occasional payouts aren’t the solution. A one time failure I can sort of understand. Thirty people over a period of time? Absolutely not acceptable in any way.

  9. As I think anyone who frequently rents cars will tell you, National is now a significantly better company to rent from than Hertz. But there are a lot more Hertz locations (especially off-airport) than there are National locations. And, unless you have a decent corporate rate, National doesn’t really have competitive rates these days. So there are reasons to rent from Hertz. They’re generally OK.. You’re unlikely to wind up in jail. My biggest gripes with Hertz is that they sometimes want to charge my more for rentals if I sign into my online account instead of shop as a “guest.” And my prepaid rentals seem to NEVER automatically post Rewards points.

    That said, while renting cars in the USA can be a hassle, it is nothing like renting a car overseas, which is usually a far more time-consuming and expensive proposition. And you’re far more likely to be hassled over some scratch that was already on the car when you rented it (take a full video with your phone in the rental lot when you pick up the car). So I’m reluctant to say that Hertz USA is bad. They’re just not great.

  10. Used to rent from Hertz a lot, until about 8 years ago when they said “Sorry, our rental confirmation means nothing; we don’t have a car for you.” Never have been back. I walked over to the Avis counter, they matched my status and got me a better rate than Hertz. I’ve used Avis ever since and found them to be friendlier and more likely to give vehicle upgrades. Avis overseas is another matter. Definitely video the car from top to bottom before you leave.

  11. I may start renting from Hertz just to try to get arrested. I need $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  12. Had a similar incident with Hertz. Was given a car with a strong gas odor and was replaced with another car before leaving the Hertz facility. Two weeks later the police contacted me but had a receipt and explained the situation. No jail time and no apology from Hertz!

  13. First thing to do after returning rental car is CALL your credit card company and report your card lost (after you put it in the shredder). This way they can not bill your card since the card number changes.

    Thrifty charged me $50 to tell the New South Wales my address so they can send me a $140 camera speeding ticket.

    Sixt sent me a $1500 bill for a scratch a month after I dropped off the car to an empty lot (they do not have anyone at the lot) I sent them copies of the my photos along with bill for $100 processing fee for showing proof of no damage ….. still have not heard back from them or the check.

    My sister got a toll violation in Orlando from Hertz at the exact same time her plane was landing in MCO Airport.

  14. These stolen vehicles must be from non airport locations. There is too much control and camera technology to track vehicles at airport locations for Hertz to presume a car has been stolen without quickly or easily confirming that with a review of the checkout video.
    If they cannot track all of their cars at that point, they will lose a lot of cars to thieves. Also, Hertz owns dollar and thrifty, so I wonder if those brands were the culprit?
    National, with their paperless rental process, did not impress the NYPD when I was asked for a copy of the rental contract during a routine traffic stop. Also, the glove box was completely empty… no insurance proof. I guess I was lucky I wasn’t falsely arrested.

  15. Hertz is a train wreck. I haven’t set foot in a Hertz office in two years and I rent about 50x a year for travel. Before that, the last positive (or rather, not SO negative experience) was in 2013 when I rented a car and got an upgrade.

  16. Ah, Hertz. Great memories of my honeymoon. Rented a car in Kauai (many years ago) and the paperwork was all handwritten. About two weeks after returning I received a bill from them for a calculation error (they made) on the rental agreement. They charged me for another 50 cents. I am not making this up…….

  17. This just happened to us this week in California. Rented car at LAX and 2 days later, was detained by police in Westminster CA because the rental car had been reported stolen. Car was towed as evidence but local police let us take our belongings out of trunk. LAX did send another car over, and supposedly credited our account $50 (haven’t seen yet). Calls to LAX Hertz office manager were never returned as we wanted entire week free due to humiliation and embarrassment of incident. Will NEVER rent from Hertz again. Poor customer service !!!

  18. These stories show outrageous behavior from Hertz. They deserve to go bankrupt. Based on what I’ve read I will NEVER rent a Hertz car again. I haven’t in awhile anyway as Avis has MUCH better rates with my corporate discount.

  19. I just can’t imagine how anybody would not rent from National. We can debate airlines all day, but when it comes to car rental, there’s no contest.

  20. Terrible stories but Gary’s post doesn’t mention that the news article states these were nearly all cases where a debit card was used rather than credit card. Doesn’t make it ‘less bad’ but most frequent travelers use credit cards that aren’t an internal red flag for potential theft.

  21. @chancer
    I guess you win the Internet for stupidest post of the day. You think having your stuff you left in the car taken is on the same level as getting pulled over for GTA?
    The idiocy of people never fails to astound.

  22. Hertz bears responsibility but so do cops. The police should know how easy it is for rental car companies to make mistakes. Every single cop, jailer, judge, and prosecutor who was responsible for people being held in jail should spend 10 times that amount in jail themselves. This will stop cops from arresting and holding people unless they are absolutely sure individuals are the responsible party. Cops blindly following orders and enforcing often liberal (evil) laws does not make them the good guy. They need to take responsibility for each action they take and each “law” they enforce.

  23. I have rented from Hertz, often weekly, for thirty years and never had a problem. However, several years ago, two days after returning the car to LGA, I received a phone call from them asking me when I was planning to return the car. The guy who called honestly sounded as though he would come over and break my knees, LOL. I had a copy of my return paperwork handy and read him the information on it. That was the end of the issue. I find it hard to believe that Hertz wouldn’t call or email first if they thought the car had not been returned but maybe procedures have changed for the worse.

  24. @Greg

    “Nearly all” isn’t good enough IMHO. It would be one thing if this is a software bug that was strictly limited to debit cards (or whatever), but “nearly all” allows that this can happen to credit card payers too. Which begs the question, is the form of payment really a discriminator, or is it just a matter of chance? (I haven’t read anything beyond Gary’s posts.)

    But from a “never rent from Hertz again” standpoint, there *is* a choice in car rental agencies, and getting falsely accused of stealing a car (and the possible jail time that could occur along with that false accusation) is likely enough to get me to say “pass”.

  25. @Jason Uber and lift will work real good traveling from PHX to the grand Canyon or from MIA to Key West.

  26. I had a somewhat similarly bizarre incident happen at Avis. I went into an Avis, rental contract in hand, to drop off a rental, and apparently the car had been flagged as stolen in their system. The manager told me not to leave until they called the police. I was like, uh, I have the rental agreement IN MY HAND.

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