More Horror Stories About Hertz’s False Theft Accusations Pile Up As Class Action Suit Moves Forward

from the where-valued-customers-are-rewarded-with-lengthy-jail-time! dept

Hertz rents cars, like many of its competitors do. What separates Hertz from the rental car pack is its willingness to let law enforcement perform its collection work by filing criminal charges against people. Maybe some people prefer a tough-on-crime rental agency, but it’s unlikely any of Hertz’s falsely accused customers choose Hertz for its unique ability to have renters imprisoned.

After years of false allegations, the company is being sued by the people it has helped wrongfully imprison. Late last year, a class action suit representing about 100 renters was filed. Since then, more allegations have surfaced and more plaintiffs have been added to the suit.

The company has been ordered to tell the court how many times it accuses renters of theft. It has responded with a low ball estimate of around 3,500 police reports a year: 0.014% of its customer base. Those suing say it’s likely double the reported amount, which would still be a very small percentage of renters.

But a percentage that looks like a rounding error still means the company possibly falsely forwards theft allegations to law enforcement that affect thousands of people every year. And even if it’s a very small percentage (roughly 0.030% of renters, if we believe the plaintiffs), its still thousands more than are generated by any of Hertz’s competitors.

And Hertz has been less than contrite about the lives it has destroyed by outsourcing its collection efforts to people with uniforms, badges, guns, and access to a justice system that tends to see accusations as inherently trustworthy, especially when cops are involved.

The very human cost of Hertz’s refusal to perform in-house due diligence and its willingness to offset the cost of vehicle recovery to taxpayers has a very human cost. The attorney (Frances Malofiy) heading up the class action lawsuit has created an online repository of horror stories from customers Hertz has falsely accused of theft.

NBC affiliate 13WTHR has compiled several of these in its report on the lawsuit and the victims of Hertz’s extremely questionable vehicle recovery activities.

It opens with a Colorado man being accosted by CBP officers at the Denver International Airport over a bogus theft report filed by Hertz. Rather than heading to Mexico to celebrate his daughter’s high school graduation, Drew Seaser was subjected to this:

As Seaser and his family got ready to board their flight to Cabo San Lucas, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent asked to see his identification.

“So we handed him my passport. He [said], ‘Mr Seaser, are you aware there is a warrant for your arrest out of Georgia?’ I was like, ‘No, I’ve never been to Georgia,’” Seaser recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. I thought someone was joking.”

It was no joke.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested the Colorado father in front of his wife and children in the middle of the airport and took him to the Denver County jail.

This ended up being a case of identity fraud. Seaser’s credentials were used to rent a car in his name in a state he’d never been in. You may think it lets Hertz off the hook, but apparently the company never bothered to verify the driver’s license number of the fraudster, which did not match the real Drew Seaser’s. Because of that, Seaser spent a night in jail and was unable to take his family on their planned celebratory trip.

Is a night in jail a minor inconvenience? Hertz appears to believe that’s the case. It continues to claim only a small percentage of people are subjected to the end results of false reports, which often begin with guns-out traffic stops and end with someone being jailed until they can clear their name. Seaser’s case took a little more than 24 hours. For others, the ordeal was much, much longer.

Julius Burnside rented a Hertz car in Georgia, then paid for an extension. Despite having a receipt showing he paid for all of it, Burnside claims Hertz reported the car stolen, erased his extensions, backdated the due date of his rental and told police he had not extended or paid. After 7 months in jail, Burnside accepted a plea deal to get out. He later fought to have the guilty plea withdrawn and prosecutors dropped all charges.

Seven months in this case. Three-and-a-half months in jail in another. A few days in jail for a mother whose child was placed in “protective custody” until she could clear her name. Fourteen days for a Hertz “President’s Club” member whose years of loyalty meant nothing when Hertz screwed up his rental paperwork. 171 days in jail for a report filed by the company, something that led to the pregnant mother’s miscarriage while falsely imprisoned.

And even when cops take Hertz reports with a grain of salt, bad things still happen. Kevin Barkal had a car rented for him by his insurance company while his car was being repaired. Despite not being directly involved in the rental, Hertz decided Barkal needed to be arrested when his possession of the vehicle apparently exceeded the rental agreement he had nothing to do with.

Hertz has multiple excuses for the bullshit chain of events that followed this third-party rental.

A manager at the Hertz lot in Highland, Ind. confirmed that Barkal’s rented 2019 Chevy Impala was coordinated through the insurance company and that he never signed a rental contract. But that rental car manager, Jeffrey Williams, insists Barkal’s rental car was more than a month overdue. Williams told 13News that both he and his staff made multiple attempts to contact Barkal to bring the Impala back to the lot.

“I personally went to the house and left a note on the mailbox, at the front door, the back door. And I put a note on the car to please contact Hertz immediately. [He] never did,” Williams explained. “He took the car and didn’t bring it back. It’s that simple.”

Despite Hertz knowing exactly where the car was located at all times (via the built-in OnStar GPS), it never made an attempt to recover the car. Instead, it filed a report with the local police department. According to the Hertz rep interviewed by the NBC affiliate, Hertz management told him to get law enforcement involved rather than just try to have the car towed back to Hertz.

After a traffic stop, the vehicle the insurance company had rented on Barkal’s behalf was towed and impounded. After some back-and-forth with Hertz, the local cops placed this note in Barkal’s file.

A Highland Police Department detective wrote in his original investigation notes, “Due to the ongoing issue with Hertz’s company policy of not allowing employees to properly identify customers before renting them a vehicle, this case will be closed out. If the vehicle is located, it can simply be towed at Hertz’s expense and removed from [the National Crime Information Center stolen vehicle database].”

That should have been the end of it. Law enforcement was on notice that Hertz was outsourcing its vehicle recovery efforts and that the company preferred to bypass due diligence in favor of letting taxpayers cover the costs of recovering allegedly stolen cars.

Nine months after this incident was stopped, an investigation began again, following Hertz’s insistence the theft investigation should be reopened and criminal charges pursued. Barkal was again pulled over (this time in his own car), arrested, charged with two felonies, and spent a day in jail and thousands of his own funds fighting the bogus criminal charges.

Hertz wants America to return to a simpler time — perhaps one predating the American Revolution. Here’s the class action suit’s lead attorney:

“Even if the car was returned late, it doesn’t make it OK for Hertz to convert a civil payment dispute into a criminal matter,” Malofiy said. “We don’t have debtor’s prisons in this country. But Hertz deliberately would rather use the police as a taxpayer-funded repo service and throw people in jail instead of hiring its own people to retrieve a car. They shift the burden to taxpayers, to police and prosecutors so it doesn’t cost them a dime. No other company in the United States files unverified false police reports against their very own customers like this.”

Yet again, Hertz has responded to requests for comments with its usual line: the false arrests and destruction of renters’ lives only represents a very small percentage of its rental contracts. But what Hertz has consistently refused to explain is how this sort of thing only happens to Hertz renters, despite the company having several competitors in the same market who handle millions of rentals a year (including ones that involve unreturned cars) without getting their customers wrongfully arrested and/or jailed.

The only explanation is the one Hertz doesn’t want to give: it wants to save money by cutting corners on due diligence and allowing the public to fund its vehicle recovery efforts — something no other company does.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: hertz

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “More Horror Stories About Hertz’s False Theft Accusations Pile Up As Class Action Suit Moves Forward”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bergman (profile) says:

One false report is a crime, Hertz has made hundreds, possibly thousands

So why is it, that if the criminal penalty for filing ONE false report can be as high as 6-12 months imprisonment in most states, or even be a felony in a few, that none of the people following Hertz’s official policy to file false reports has been arrested, charged or prosecuted?

Last I checked, an organization that makes it official policy to commit crimes is classified as a criminal organization under the RICO Act. Why is Hertz still in business after showing a pattern of crimes being official policy?

Anonymous Coward says:


If this keeps up, I hope their marketing is familar with the word homophone– two words that have similar pronunciation but different meanings.

That’s because their company name has one that will make it very easy for potential customers to remember.

As a bonus, it has a meaning they should want to avoid being associated with their brand…

Anonymous Coward says:

This is just one aspect of their dishonest/incompetent operations. I returned a car to LAX after filling the tank at a nearby station. Hertz charged me a ridiculous amount to “fill” an already full tank, about twice what I actually paid to fill the tank. Despite having the receipt, engaging with customer non-service got me nothing but frustration. After three calls, I wrote a letter, attaching the receipt, and never heard from Hertz. Wrote it off as just another business expense. Switched to limousine service, which turned out to be only slightly more expensive.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“the false arrests and destruction of renters’ lives only represents a very small percentage of its rental contracts”

The fact that ANY customer of yours is FALSELY accused, arrested, and fscked over and the response is… its only a couple.

Its only a few people dead DWB.
Its only a few people who died from PhenPhen.
Its only a few people dying of a curable disease.
Its only a few assholes running a corporation who don’t give a fuck.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re: Re:

In 2019, I found out that because of an old vaccine-brain injury link that was about as real as the later vaccine-autism link, I didn’t get all my childhood jabs, and only had the single dose of DTaP necessary to get me into school. I got all caught up, of course, and then had a right go at my parents for prioritising a boogeyman over genuine risks to my health.

bhull242 (profile) says:

“But only a fraction of a percent of our customers have been falsely reported for theft!”

So what? As far as anyone seems able to tell, you are the only one who ever does this even once! There is no reason for the number to be above 0. Not a single case where payments failed to be made should have been turned into a criminal matter, period. Towing the vehicle should have been done before even getting the government involved in the first place. Not one of these should have been reported to the police at all! No other rental car company does that!

Simply put, the law of large numbers simply doesn’t apply here.

On top of that, that’s not even the most important percentage to consider. Far more important would be what percentage of reports made are false reports, what percentage of alleged breaches of contract by the customer are actual breaches, and what percentage of alleged breaches of contract get reported as theft. It is unremarkable that most customers don’t get reported since most customers don’t breach the contract in the first place! The real question is how often reports are made falsely compared to the total number of reports, how frequently the system that determines a breach gets a false positive, and how often and how quickly they resort to criminal reports to resolve what should be a civil dispute at most.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...