Thieves in Texas have found a new way to make the lives of others miserable. The crooks are using stolen identities in order to rent cars they never intend to return.
Cars rented to stolen identities
Police are seeing the scam more and more frequently in the Huston area. It’s a unique blend of identity and car theft that seems to be catching on among the denizens of the Texas city’s criminal underbelly.
Officer Jim Woods of the Houston Police Department said that seasoned crooks have little difficulty renting a car under another person’s name, once they have their hands on a stolen credit card.
“If it’s not your credit card and you’ve got a doctored I.D. and you put enough information down and it all passes the initial check then you’ll walk away with a rental vehicle,” he said.
Stolen cars sold for less than $1K
Reporters from Houston’s KHOU 11 TV News rode along with police as they apprehended two men who were attempting to sell a Dodge Charger that had been rented and never returned. The crooks asked only a measly $700 for the car.
“That’s pretty much the going rate. Any stolen vehicle is going to be sold for less than $1,000 dollars,” said Woods.
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Stolen cars used in other crimes
Oftentimes, these “heavily discounted” vehicles end up in the hands of other criminals. Those crooks then use them in the commission of other crimes to, ironically, protect their own identity.
According to KHOU, a stolen Ford truck was recovered recently, abandoned in a convenience store parking lot. The vehicle had been used prior to that in the armed holdup of a T-Mobile store.
There has been an increase in identity thieves nabbing rented Houston TX BMWs, Lincolns, Subarus and other makes. But the crime is not exactly new or limited to Houston. According to Fraud Fighter, “Car rental companies suffer losses in large dollar amounts every year from counterfeit criminals who present fake driver licenses and matching credit cards … and drive away with $20,000 – $30,000 vehicles, never to be seen again. Such losses total tens of millions of dollars each year.”
But the cost of those crimes eventually falls to the consumers, according to Woods.
“Ultimately we pay for it. You know the rental car companies, they are in the business to make a profit,” he said.
Not all sold to crooks
However, not all rental cars stolen by identity thieves end up with other criminals. One woman reported saving up $8,000 for a used car listed on Craigslist. Later, it was learned that the car had been rented from Enterprise, but never returned. The car rental company recovered its property, but the hapless buyer was out her savings.
Officer Woods offered good advice to those considering the purchase of a used vehicle from people they don’t know: “Always ask to see the title,” he said.