Hertz Is Even Sending People To Jail That Never Rented Cars From Them

Hertz seems to have a real problem sending customers to jail for no good reason. As best I have been able to tell, it seems that when a customer changes cars, or extends a rental, Hertz sometimes doesn’t record the transaction correctly in their system. They show the original car as overdue and unreturned, report it stolen, and the customer gets arrested.

There’s a class action lawsuit against the rental car company over the practice, though Hertz told a judge that most customers don’t get falsely arrested so it’s not a huge deal. However it appears that while I’ve been writing about the problem for a couple of years, and Hertz faces an active lawsuit, they still haven’t fixed things and continue to do it.

But this is a rather unique twist on the Hertz saga. Colorado resident Drew Seaser:

  • Was arrested for stealing a car from Hertz
  • That was rented in Georgia
  • Even though he’d never rented from Hertz
  • Or been to Georgia

This story doesn’t surprise me. Last summer a reader contacted me when Hertz threatened them with criminal prosecution over a car they never rented. This reader reported receiving a letter that they were supposed to return a car to the Las Vegas airport on June 24 and hadn’t done so – even though they apparently hadn’t left their home state of California since before the pandemic. They gathered credit card receipts and other data to show their location at the time of the supposed rental, but Hertz was apparently non-responsive.

This wasn’t even the only reader dealing with false claims of auto theft from Hertz. And some of the other Hertz customer 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.

It seems like Hertz should settle the suit, complications over its bankruptcy emergence notwithstanding, but most importantly Hertz needs to stop doing this no matter how rare. My recommendation in the past never to swap cars or extend a rental with Hertz as a ‘stay out of jail’ strategy doesn’t work when they’re reporting people for auto theft who don’t even rent cars.

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. I would make it my life’s mission to (further) bankrupt that company and every single executive and manager that works there. It would be a vendetta.

  2. As bad as this is, how does anyone not look at the incompetency of the police, the prosecutors, and the judges involved? Nobody does an investigation? No warrants? Hertz calls, files a claim, people get arrested? Something stinks here and it isn’t just Hertz.

  3. And companies should stop using them to avoid putting their employees at risk. We are restricted to using only two rental car companies through our travel services provider … and believe me I won’t be using one of them.

  4. @Gary – are there not criminal penalties for filing a false police report ? Can the individual who files the report be held liable in addition to any liability the company might face ? Doesn’t a police report list the individual who makes the report ?

  5. It’s actually mind boggling that the company hasn’t fixed this problem years after it began to be publicized. It would seem that the likely damages from the pending lawsuits (which will only grow if not corrected) and the reputational damage far exceeds any benefit to Hertz. If they’re this incompetent on this one issue (don’t they have a General Counsel who’ can read?), what must the rest of their business be like?

  6. I have NEVER had a pleasant experience w/ Hertz! Sometimes their the only game in town. International is even worse! They act like their doing you a favor. Had a reservation at PTY; arrived NO vehicles. Reservation in DUB for an SUV w/ 4 people only to be given a Mini Cooper. That luggage rack on top of a Cooper is worthless. Reservation in CDG only to be given a mini van for 2 people. Have u ever tried to park a mini van in Paris? #shutthemdown

  7. Is this is true about Hertz, they will end up with many lawsuits which will likely cause them to pay out potentially close to $1 billion in damages.

  8. Hertz management: “Our written policy is only to file police reports when returns are grossly overdue and the customer does not respond to repeated requests through multiple channels.”
    Hertz IT systems: “<> Malfunction. Hamster dead, power wheel not turning on the old 1977 VAX <>”
    Hertz management: “the computer is always right”

  9. As @Jon said, if this happened to me, I would do everything in my power to extract every last cent out of this company that I could. I would hire the best lawyer I could find and share the story as far and wide as possible. Getting arrested, even for false reasons, follows you your entire life. I remember at my Global Entry interview the agent asked if I had ever been arrested, for anything, ever, even if never convicted.

  10. What’s disconcerting is that they are reporting to the police people who have never rented from them. Even not renting from them won’t save you from potential false arrest, even with proof you are innocent.

  11. I’ve long been against those who encourage a litigious society. But, here’s a case where Hertz needs their collective asses sued off! Lives are adversely impacted because of their lackluster employees’ incompetence. Basically, all those arrested falsely should own the company and all it’s assets. And anyone involved in this outrageous aspect of their already crappy customer service need to be so fired that they to be sprayed with a fire extinguisher.

    Perhaps, there might even be enough culpability that certain Hertz managers could, themselves, wind up in jail. And that would be sweet irony indeed.

  12. What if I saw a Hertz rental car that looked like my car and reported the local Hertz manager for auto theft? I’d be the one arrested for filing a false report. Why do they get to file false reports and then, after the report is proven false the only thing that happens is that the victim is released and no one even talks about the obvious next step.

  13. Interesting and truly sad thread.
    I wondered if Hertz was still in bankruptcy which would mean they wouldn’t be too bothered by lawsuits, but I see they’re not any more.
    It would seem to me that all those unjustly arrested would be well advised to visit their elected representatives in DC and insist on a DOJ investigation hopefully leading to a civil rights lawsuit. I am not a lawyer (God forbid) but am I not correct that a civil rights lawsuit would pierce corporate veils and make the involved executives, managers and employees personally liable?
    Now that would leave a mark at Hertz……

    Although…. Hertz was the *only* rental car company that would give me a one-way rental from LAX to PHX on Sunday night after AA dumped my wife and I after a flight in from LHR. The first officer on our flight to PHX ran out of hours…. It’s AA, go figure.

  14. First, bankruptcy only protects you from claims against you that arose prior to the filing of your bankruptcy petition. So any false arrests after that date are not shielded by the bankruptcy.

    Second, class actions are worth squat and almost always end up in a settlement. They are designed to make money for the lawyers. The plaintiff’s lawyers get paid by the defendants. The defendants lawyers get paid by the defendants. The true victims will likely end up with a coupon good for $50 off a bail bond on their next Hertz rental.

    The real compensation for a victim would come from individually suing Hertz for false arrest, abuse of process, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, gross negligence, etc., etc.

  15. I never have a problem renting from Hertz because they are never the low cost option. Maybe once in 25 years of renting cars. But this isn’t going to get me to pick them anytime soon – maybe if Green Motion were the only other option. Now that was a shit-show…

  16. This is a GENUIS move by Hertz to get people to rent from them again!
    If you can’t avoid being arrested by NOT renting, then you might as well rent.

    I’m hiding from Hertz in the AA lounge.

  17. How come small businesses cannot get people arrested who don’t pay their bills? Or get a contractor arrested for not finishing a job?

  18. @Ray – I saw a segment on this from WRAL sometime in the last year, and the cops, once they confirmed what actually happened, DID very publicly reprimand Hertz. They specifically said the individual involved could have very easily been shot, and it would have been Hertz’s negligence that caused it! They were pretty upset, too.

    So, some folks are catching on, but generally, the real failure here is with the judges issuing warrants based on evidence presented from a computer that is essentially lying. How do you fix that? You basically need to tell every judge in the US to individually give Hertz arrest warrants extra scrutiny. That’s… not super feasible. Our system is fundamentally based on a certain amount of trust in records, including computer records.

  19. I would press kidnapping charges against the CEO of Hertz

    Filing a completely false claim like this would be the equivalent of hiring someone to kidnap for you.

  20. It won’t end until Hertz executives go to prison for their role in this unconscionable fiasco. They should be charged criminally.

  21. The cops are 100% culpable for this as are the prosecutors and judges. If they arrest someone on false cases without having absolute verification, they are the evildoers. What’s worse than Hertz falsely reporting people for car thefts is cops arresting people for it. All cops are the bad guy. None are heroes. This won’t end until cops and their families are held accountable for their actions. Any cop who arrested someone on these false reports (who didn’t verify but believed he said she said claims from a company) should be in prison for life. This won’t end until cops face severe criminal or other penalties at the hands of the public for wrongdoing. Just doing their jobs or following orders is not an excuse. If they arrest someone wrongly or over false claims, the cops should spend 10,000 times more in custody.

  22. Who want to take bets on whether Jackson is also a “Believe All Women” kind of guy? Can’t have it both ways.

  23. Why would any police department even pursue any complaints Hertz has at this point? “This will be filed (in the trash).”

  24. I have had this happen to me when I relocated to start a new job. Can anyone tell me how I can join a class action lawsuit against Hertz. It would be greatly appreciated

  25. I rented a car in Frankfurt in 1974 and returned it Hertz’s office in Paris the next day.

    Two months later they wanted to know what I did with the car. I told them and after checked it out they realized the car was stolen from their garage.

    Three years later I was arrested at Cologne Airport, and put in prison! They had issued a warrant for my arrest with Interepol but never cancelled it when the found out it was their mistake. The most horrible day and night of my life. I have written a book (still unpublished) about this recurring nightmare. It was on my birthday!!!
    Google me under Pantone, Hofstra U, American Film Institute, Palm Beach Police Fdn for my current bio.

  26. The cops are 100% culpable for this as are the prosecutors and judges. If they arrest someone on false cases without having absolute verification, they are the evildoers. What’s worse than Hertz falsely reporting people for car thefts is cops arresting people for it. All cops are the bad guy. None are heroes. This won’t end until cops and their families are held accountable for their actions

  27. When I needed repairs on my car I was covered to get a rental car. The company that was at the Ford service center was Enterprise. I never had any problems. Hawaii is a big rental car place. I never rented a vehicle there. I took the bus on Oahu, did day trips and went around the other islands with shuttles. After hearing about all of these Hertz horror stories I would never rent from them. It makes me not want to rent from any company. Jail is not an option for me. I can see a mistake happening here and there but all these times are unbelievable. Some mistakes are more costly than others. We are talking about a person’s freedom. And people who have not done anything wrong. You can compensate them with money but it’s only partial compensation. What they really want is the time they were locked up back. They lose family time and their employment. It may not be a big deal to Hertz but it’s a very big deal to the victims. I hope something can be done to help them and that it can stop so there are no new victims.

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