Customers Being Wrongly Detained for 'Stolen' Rental Cars Is Apparently a Thing

Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

Quite a few of you probably have plans to travel and rent cars this summer, so listen up: There have been various cases where rental car companies like Hertz have mistakenly reported their cars as missing and then getting unsuspecting customers arrested.

A customer named Dina Johnson told ABC Action News that last year when she was returning from visiting family in Canada in a rental, border patrol agents instructed her to pull over and turn off the engine. They detained her for seven hours before it was discovered that:

... the car belonged to another rental car company that had reported it stolen a few days earlier. Yet, a Hertz agent processed the rental and put her in the car.

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In 2017, Magalie Sterlin also rented a car from Hertz and found guns drawn on her at a checkpoint. The cops told her that the car she was driving had been reported stolen, which was news to Sterlin because she had rented it. She got arrested and was held for half a day.

In her police report Sterlin told officers “she did not return the vehicle despite the employee asking her.” But Sterlin claims Hertz called her a few days earlier and told her to return the car because the registration was about to expire. She says, Hertz agreed she could return the car Monday instead of Thursday. She was arrested on Sunday.

“When I got out of jail I was told there was a glitch in the system,” she said.

Sterlin has since hired a lawyer, Francis Alexander, who says that this “glitch” is causing between “10 [and] 30” wrongly reported stolen car issues across the country.

“The problem is Hertz has broken computer systems. They have broken policies around standard operating procedures and, as a result of that, good people are being thrown in jail. It’s shocking, it’s bad and it needs to stop,” he told the outlet.

Something similar happened to Carol and Leonard Williams while they were on vacation in Arizona.

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Highway troopers pulled them over and screamed at them to turn off the car and throw the keys out the window. Carol, the driver, was frisked, handcuffed and questioned, reports a separate ABC Action News story. Apparently, Nissan Sentra they had rented from Dollar Rental had been reported as stolen in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Carol told the cops that they had rented the car.

After an hour, the police were able to verify the Williams’ story and let them go. The outlet reports that Dollar Rental upgraded their rental for free but, like, come on.

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Hertz spokesperson Tressie Rose told ABC Action News, “False reports of stolen vehicles are extremely rare. When it has occurred, it has been the result of unique and extenuating circumstances. In the rare instance an error within our controls has occurred we take responsibility.”

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to check if your rental car has been reported as stolen. I didn’t even think this was a thing anyone had to be worried about, but apparently it is! On the more positive side, though, it seems like the chances of this happening are pretty low.

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If you’re renting a car this holiday weekend, be careful.

via Carscoops

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About the author

Kristen Lee

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.