Travel | December 14, 2021 11:05 am

Why Are Dozens of Hertz Customers Being Accused of Auto Theft?

Following a CBS report in November, people are continuing to come forward with disturbing stories, including a few instances of being held at gunpoint

Why Are Dozens of Hertz Customers Being Accused of Auto Theft?
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Claims are continuing to roll in against Hertz after dozens more customers have come forward with harrowing accounts of being accused and arrested for theft despite having lawfully secured a vehicle from the rental company.

According to a CBS story from November, 165 customers nationwide have now filed claims in bankruptcy court (the company filed for bankruptcy in May 2020), stemming from situations in which they were wrongfully arrested, jailed and charged for car theft at the hands of Hertz. Included in those claimants is James Tolen, who was pulled over and ultimately held at gun point at a traffic stop in Houston last year after it was discovered that Hertz reported the car Tolen had legitimately rented as stolen. After Tolen was able to provide proof of contract, one of the officers allegedly called Hertz and told the company “it needed to get a better system.” Despite that admonition, a NASA employee was later also held at gunpoint, with police claiming his Hertz SUV had also been reported stolen.

Since then, according to a secondary report from CBS, even more customers have stepped forward to tell similar stories. Carrie Gibbs was arrested at a gas station in California despite her rental having been secured for her by an insurance company following an accident. She was taken into custody and charged with felony car theft, and while the case was eventually thrown out, Gibbs still lost her real estate license as a result of the arrest. Rejeana Meado rented a car for three days in Houston; after she had successfully returned the car to Hertz, she was notified the car had been reported stolen. There are several more accounts, too, the similarities of which are uncanny.

But in response to CBS’ sinterview request, Hertz offered only this statement: “Unfortunately, in the legal matters being discussed, the attorneys have a track record of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts. The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date. Situations where vehicles are reported to the authorities are very rare and happen only after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer.”

Per attorney Francis Alexander Malofiy, though, that’s not necessarily true. “People think that they’re an isolated incident and they don’t realize that this is a systemic issue that’s happening across the nation,” he said. And it’s true that dozens of people being arrested on stolen vehicle charges — reported by the same company — despite having legitimately rented said vehicle, does seem to exceed that of a fluke.

In a similar scenario from August, Tarikh Campbell of Teaneck, New Jersey, took to Twitter to share his experience with Hertz’s competitor, Avis. In Campbell’s case, his rental was seemingly stolen back from him by Avis.

By Campbell’s own account, Avis came to his childhood home and — unbeknownst to him — repossessed the rental in the middle of the night, and then told Campbell that not only could they not track the car’s location (despite having already apparently tracked it to his residence), but that he was also liable for its disappearance and responsible for $20,000 worth of fines. Because Campbell had left his E-ZPass in the car, and thanks to a security camera that had captured footage the night the car was stolen, he was able to trace the car back to Newark International Airport, where he’d picked the car up the day prior. For its part, Avis feigned ignorance and eventually dropped the fines, though their explanation for what happened is still unclear.

While it’s certainly a departure from the incidents reported by CBS, Campbell’s episode is illustrative of the fact that there seems to be a trend of rental car companies taking swift, unjustified penal action against customers, and seemingly not a lot of accountability to match. Of course, both Avis and Hertz remain adamant that their customer-oriented service models are intact and, in Hertz’s case, not responsible for all of the aforementioned arrests. The jury, however, is — both literally and figuratively — still out on that.