Former Hertz Employee Says Company Is Outsourcing Its Collection Efforts To Law Enforcement

from the raising-profit-margins-by-getting-the-public-to-foot-the-bill dept

Rental car company Hertz has put the “hurt” back in, um, “Hertz.” The company recently declared itself bankrupt, something that presumably only referred to its balance sheet.

But Hertz has more problems. In 2021 (the same year Hertz “emerged” from bankruptcy), the company was sued by a man who could have been cleared of murder charges if only the company has been interested in finding his rental receipt. It took the company three years to produce the records clearing Herbert Alford, but that came at the tail end of Alford’s five years behind bars.

More recently, the company has been sued for falsely reporting rental vehicle thefts — something that has led to false charges, wrongful imprisonment, and a class action lawsuit. Hertz’s best practices when it comes to suspected theft are apparently the worst. Hundreds of plaintiffs claim Hertz doesn’t do much in terms of verification, apparently preferring law enforcement handle its due diligence for it. Unfortunately, turning this over to law enforcement means people lose their freedoms. And, if the practice continues, people are going to lose their lives.

Bogus stolen vehicle reports lead to guns out traffic stops by law enforcement. Once the guns are out, it’s up to the driver to ensure they don’t get shot. That’s not always going to work out and Hertz is lucky it’s not fielding wrongful death suits. But that luck isn’t going to hold forever. Sooner or later, the utterly imaginable will happen and Hertz will be somewhat responsible for the dead body lying near an officer who mistook confusion for resistance.

Hertz claims in court this inability to properly research alleged thefts only affects a very small percentage of its customers. But that still means 3,500-8,000 customers are wrongly accused of theft every year. Thousands of false reports are resulting in dozens of cases where people have lost their jobs, their freedom (at least temporarily), and their ability to live a normal life despite never having stolen a car from Hertz.

It gets worse. A former Hertz employee handed a scoop to cable news network News Nation, informing journalists there that the company has decided the public should foot the bill for its collection/repo efforts.

Daniel Stokes worked for Hertz for 11 years from 1996 till 2007 and was a branch and city manager in charge of 24 different Hertz locations.

“Being a city manager and knowing what the processes were and learning more about what actually happens to the people, quite honestly, it pissed me off that knowing that it was still going on,” Stokes told NewsNation investigative reporter Rich McHugh.

Stokes believes the way Hertz is managing this current process is wrong.

“I don’t see how it’s legal,” Stokes said.

He says Hertz should not be involving police in most of these cases, but a collections company, instead.

In cases where customers have rented a car and not returned it on the due date, “Hertz is actually using the police department as a repo company and the court system as a collection company,” Stokes said. “All of these supposed embezzlement by thefts are collection issues. They’re not actual thefts.”

As a private company, Hertz is free to pursue alleged theft however it wants to. But that freedom to pursue ends where its bottom line meets the public dollar. A private company should not be using law enforcement as its proxy collection effort, especially when Hertz is often wrong about its theft allegations. This offloads the cost and potentially deadly outcomes to non-customers, who are forced to not only pay for enforcement efforts triggered by Hertz’s theft reports, but officers who may be sued for actions they’ve taken in response to possibly bogus reports.

According to the whistleblower, Hertz’s rental system lags behind its theft-reporting system. Even if a car has been returned after it was due and all additional charges paid, the car is handed over to a new renter prior to the car being cleared. That leads to more false theft reports, this time targeting a new renter who has returned a vehicle late or otherwise raised flags in the rental system.

Hertz has yet to respond to these allegations. That’s unsurprising, considering it’s currently being sued for doing exactly the sort of thing alleged by the whistleblower. To be clear, there has been no independent verification of the claims made by the former Hertz employee — one who was also allegedly falsely accused of theft and embezzlement by his employer over his use of a company-owned car while he was on medical leave.

If anything lends credence to this whistleblower’s claims, it’s the fact that no other car rental company is facing similar allegations. This indicates something is severely broken in Hertz’s rental system — one that allows rental agents to not only act on limited info, but to compel law enforcement to act on reports that appear to be lacking in actionable evidence.

Deliberately or inadvertently, Hertz has managed to leverage human nature to create a cottage industry of false accusations and bogus arrests. Hertz employees naturally want to limit theft of vehicles. And law enforcement officers are always looking for a good bust — one that rises about the normal street hassle that tends to define their day-to-day work. When it all comes together, innocent people who owe Hertz nothing and who haven’t actually broken any laws are becoming victims of a justice system that moves fastest when it’s working with nothing more than allegations and much more slowly when it comes to clearing people who are supposed to be presumed innocent.

As was noted above, Hertz is still involved in a lawsuit over its sketchy theft reporting practices. It has been ordered to turn over information about its theft reports to the court. Discovery continues. Whether or not there’s anything to the whistleblower’s allegations may soon become public record. But until then, we should remain skeptical of these claims, but not so skeptical we refuse to acknowledge the uncomfortable fact that no other rental car company in the nation is facing similar allegations from hundreds of renters.

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Comments on “Former Hertz Employee Says Company Is Outsourcing Its Collection Efforts To Law Enforcement”

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Qwertygiy says:

The victim: innocent customers

According to the whistleblower, Hertz’s rental system lags behind its theft-reporting system. Even if a car has been returned after it was due and all additional charges paid, the car is handed over to a new renter prior to the car being cleared.

This is, in my opinion, the part that makes this a genuinely horrifying problem.

What this means, is that ANYONE who obtains a rental car from Hertz could be unknowingly given a vehicle that has been reported to the police as stolen.

This does not hurt a person who was actually late in returning the car, or returned it to the wrong store, or made any other possible mistake. It hurts a random customer who is unfortunate enough to be next in line.

Of course they’ll be confused when they’re pulled over by the police. They have done absolutely nothing except the ordinary, legitimate procedure of renting a vehicle from a national rental company. They have abided by every condition they were given.

And THOUSANDS of people allegedly find themselves in this situation every year?

That’s absolutely unacceptable.

Imagine if thousands of Applebee’s diners were arrested each year because the previous customer to sit at their table had dined and dashed.

Imagine if thousands of library patrons were arrested each year because the last person to check out one of their books had returned it late.

hmmmm says:

it happens to others as well

this happened a long time ago – nothing recent

i used to work for an un-named trunk rental company
transporting their rental trucks from site to site.
during the course of our duties – we may have been required to run paperwork,etc between locations as well.. I had the distinct pleasure of using one of their rental trucks to run these errands in the middle of NYC – and discovered quite suddenly by the hands of 2 fine nyc police officers who happened to have the only car in the precinct (back in the day) that had the computer /access to see stolen vehicles. you can guess where this is going.
I was literally pulled out of the vehicle at a stop light at gun point, and handcuffed.
I will give credit to those officers – after a short discussion and them seeing my employee id that i thankfully had in my wallet – for understanding that it was someones goof – that the truck was not stolen – and somehow the flag on that license plate was not removed.
the way gov works – i am not shocked at all that this still happens.. one person at a company that fills out the report – and someone else may process the vehicle (at another location even) and may even attempt to cancel the stolen report – but if that isn’t handled properly and/or lost by law enforcement and that side of the system – bingo – someone is going to get a rude interuption to their travel plans.

i get it – no one (including myself) should have to be exposed to that – but my question is – what do you expect them to do when you might have a $50000 + vehicle unaccounted for ? just hope and pray it come back?
if it was your own vehicle – i know for a fact you’d report it post haste.. the ink could dry on the form fast enough.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


This 1 simple trick could have avoided all of this…
A car doesn’t leave the lot until all systems clear it.
If you system makes it super simple to mark it stolen & really hard to unmark it stolen, you have a serious problem with your systems.

But a sitting car costs them money, so just flip them as fast as you can and its not like we face any fees for reporting people for stealing the car they rented from us. There are only so many car rental places & we don’t have to be better, just offer a few cents cheaper and people will still keep using us… until someone ends up shot… but then thats the cops fault not ours for saying the dad who rented a car to get to Disney was a car thief & this led to him being murdered in front of his kids in the backseat.

Cattress (profile) says:

People who can’t qualify for car loans due to credit, history of bankruptcy or repossession, insufficient income or time on the job (usually a combination of these) often times end up financing a car through a buy here, pay here type of place, where cars have starter interrupters and GPS locators installed. When someone is late for their payment, and doesn’t call in to the billing department to work out their payment, they simply activate the starter interrupter, which does not stall the car or anything,just prevents it starting. If the person abandons the car, decides they aren’t going to pay anymore, it can be located and returned to the dealer. Usually though, it just generates a phone call where the payment is set up or taken. Yes I see the risk of the GPS tracking and think this specific information should have layered security and unable to be accessed by just anyone working for the dealer.
But I’m actually kind of surprised rental cars don’t also do this. If the car is late, the customer isn’t responding to attempts to communicate, after a certain point, activate the interruption service. At minimum it would mean ensuring the business has an effective, accurate inventory control system at all franchise locations, something employees can’t screw up, and glitches can be resolved in a few minutes without involving the police. I mean seriously, I’m kind of surprised some police departments even accept this form of reporting and actually act on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reportedly stolen

Would these even correctly be thefts? This seems more of a civil thing like conversion(,?) or such covered by contract law,not criminal. The vehicle was originally voluntarily released to the person who supposedly intentionally (from Hertz’s POV) didn’t return it. Isn’t that more of an unauthorized possession?

Qwertygiy says:


“Unauthorized possession” is almost a synonym for theft.

“The intent to maintain unauthorized possession” would be a complete synonym.

If you didn’t intend to keep it when you first borrowed it, then it doesn’t meet most legal definitions of theft. That would be the case that would fall under small claims court and contract law and all that, like you mentioned.

But if you never planned to honor the rental agreement, and entered it knowing you had already decided to keep possession of the item beyond the due-by date, that is stealing, just as much as if you never entered the agreement at all.

If you just forgot about the due-by date, or were unable to return it for any reason beyond your control, that doesn’t legally count as theft. You didn’t have the specific intent to deprive the owner of their property.

Determining this before going to court isn’t always easy. But I’m pretty confident that there are a broad variety of options that a company could reasonably pursue which are considerably less extreme than calling the police the second the agreement expires. There’s a distinct lack of good faith on display, doing that.

On top of the whole, “not calling the police the second the item is returned,” part.

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