Auto Rental News

SEP-OCT 2013

Magazine for the professional car and truck rental industry.

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SECURIT Y IDENTITY THEFT AND CAR RENTAL Rental cars are susceptible to being stolen through identity theft, illustrated in a recent case of 42 rental vehicles stolen through a loyalty rewards program. How do rental companies combat this growing trend in fraud? BY AMY WINTER AND CHRIS BROWN L LOYALTY REWARDS PROGRAMS ARE DESIGNED with convenience in mind — in one case, all too convenient for a car thief. By using fake credit cards and stolen drivers' licenses, a woman in Orange County, Calif., engineered the theft of 42 rental vehicles in 2012 from a major rental car company. After joining the company's loyalty rewards program, she successfully carried out the frst transaction at the counter with fraudulent documents. The suspect then made additional rental reservations online through her rewards program account. This allowed her to bypass the rental offce and walk straight to the reserved rental cars — with the keys in them — and drive off. According to CHP Detective Kraig Palmer of the Orange County Auto Theft Task Force (OCATT), that lack of faceto-face customer interaction is one factor that could have prevented so many rental cars from being stolen. "We found that a single person can't obtain this many rental vehicles without being a loyalty or VIP member," said Palmer. "The crooks really like not having to actually talk to somebody or show their face." If the perpetrator had to go into the offce for each rental and used different aliases and faked credentials every time, she would have been eventually recognized, Palmer says. In this case, she was able to rent as many vehicles as she could before the credit cards were discovered to be fraudulent. When leaving the lot, the suspect relied on the fact that the security guard would only check to make sure that the name on the rental contract matched the driver's license. Ironically, "We got a big 14 September/October 2013 break in the case because the [lot] security guard remembered the suspect and noticed a pattern," says Palmer. The perpetrator targeted higher end rental models such as Chevy Tahoe, Yukon Denali, Nissan Maxima and MercedesBenz E-350, while avoiding higher profle exotics. Once she rented the cars, she sold them or rented them out to gang members for criminal activities. To better conceal the cars, the woman and her accomplices tinted the windows and removed the license plates as well as any bar codes and "no smoking" stickers that associated the vehicles with the rental company. According to Palmer, some of the cars even contained fraudulent DMV paperwork that listed the rental company as selling the car to the driver. eyebrows, Palmer says the greater issue is identity theft using increasingly sophisticated methods. Palmer frst started seeing an upswing in using stolen identities to steal rental vehicles when he worked auto thefts in Los Angeles. Now, "We have contacts all over the place — Northern California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas — and all these states are experiencing a major shift in this type of rental car fraud," Palmer says. "It's so new that it's going to take some time for everyone to be aware of what's happening." FRAUD IN VARYING FORMS Identity and credit card manipulation take varying forms. In one car rental scenario, the customer produces a driver's license and credit card with matching names, but "WE HAVE CONTACTS ALL OVER THE PLACE — NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, NEVADA, COLORADO, TEXAS — AND ALL THESE STATES ARE EXPERIENCING A MAJOR SHIFT IN THIS TYPE OF RENTAL CAR FRAUD." —KRAIG PALMER After a seven-month investigation, OCATT caught the perpetrator and arrested 27 accomplices. All 42 vehicles were recovered. She pleaded guilty and is headed to prison. The rental company requested anonymity and declined to be interviewed for this story. While the theft of 42 vehicles raises AUTO R ENTAL N EWS when the card is swiped, the information pulled from the magnetic stripe does not match. This signifes that the thieves took a blank credit card, embossed it with a name that matches the driver's license, and loaded an identity fraud victim's credit card information onto the magnetic stripe. This happened in the Orange County

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