The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has warned that fake car hire companies are operating this Christmas, aiming to get big deposits from customers before disappearing.
A high profile case emerged in January in which a fake car rental operation called Rentmac fleeced drivers using bogus newspaper and online adverts last Christmas. Thousands of pounds were taken from punters before the company disappeared without delivering a single car.
The Rentmac scam also duped The Guardian newspaper, after the con artists behind it took out £114,000 worth of advertising on a 28-day credit agreement, but didn't pay a penny before going AWOL.
Despite the publicity after the scammers were exposed and fraud investigations werestarted by police early this year, the BVRLA believes some criminals are at it again.
Talking to Autoblog, the BVRLA's Jay Parmar said: "These companies rent office space, put up a website, then advertise ultra-low prices on a 'special deal for Christmas', with the promise of car delivery anywhere in the country.
"They get the numbers in [of interested customers] then say they're having problems with credit card payments, so have the customers drop off cash or send money transfers instead. Then they disappear.
Obviously the BVRLA cannot name the company until it is prosecuted, because at this stage it could claim it has every intention of providing the cars at its 'too good to be true' rates.
There are things that can be done to avoid dealing with a bogus car hire company, though, and signs to look out for, says the BVRLA. They include never handing over cash; making sure the company is operating from a bona fide commercial premises, not a PO Box or single virtual office; checking the company owns the cars it is offering; and dismissing anything that looks too good to be true.
There's an old saying about stuff that looks too good to be true.
The BVRLA's website has more information on spotting bogus car rental firms.