Real Life

Consumer: Text safety and rental cars

When something seems simply too good to be true, it usually is. If you receive a text message from an unknown source with an offer to get rich quick, you’re likely being “had”.
Consumer safety

I have recently been getting texts from numbers I don’t know asking me about “my car for sale”. I don’t have a car for sale, although a couple of months ago I did sell a vehicle on the internet. I haven’t replied to the number, thinking this might be some sort of scam. I have no idea how these people got my number. Have you heard of this?

You are quite right to assume this is a scam. I cannot find any information about how the scam works, but there have been recent warnings in New Zealand about texts from strangers wanting to buy your car. I notice that the Internal Affairs Electronic Messaging Compliance Team has details of several of these sorts of calls on their Reported Scams site. Check them out on dia.govt.nz and search “TXT Scams”.

You will probably find what has happened to you has happened to others. You should be extremely wary about any unsolicited texts from strangers asking you for information about anything. Don’t give them that information and although the warnings have gone out before, don’t respond to texts advising that you’ve won a prize of any sort, such as cash or holidays. That advice may sound like a stuck record, but people are still being caught out sending off money in the forlorn hope that it will bring them riches. It won’t.

Our friends from overseas hired a rental car in Auckland and slowly drove it down to Wellington via the usual tourist spots. When they got to Wellington they had a few days to spare before flying out of Christchurch back to Britain. On our recommendation, they cancelled their air tickets to Christchurch and took the rental car on the ferry to Picton and drove down.

When they took the car into the rental firm’s Christchurch office they were charged an extra $450 for taking the car on the ferry. They were upset. Isn’t that a bit of a rip-off?

Most rental car firms have a very strict policy about taking their vehicles on the inter-island ferry. This should have been, and probably was, outlined on the rental contract. The $450 represents the cost to the rental firm of returning the car to the North Island, including a return trip on the ferry which isn’t cheap. What you should have advised your friends was to return the car they had to the Wellington depot of the rental firm, take the ferry as walk-on passengers, then pick up a new rental car in Picton. This may have been slightly inconvenient, but much cheaper. There is a lesson in this about not reading the conditions of contracts. Of course, if there is no mention of this “penalty fee” on the contract, your friends then have a case to have the $450 returned. But I don’t think your friends have been ripped off.

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