The Definition: Breathtakingly devious, The Hire-Car Scam is a straight greed play. When an almost-brand-new car is offered at a deep discount, the marks line up to hand over their cash; but if this car was going to be their ride, they may as well start walking right now.
The Marks: They just cannot resist this bargain. The car is so underpriced that they should have been suspicious from the outset – but greed blinds a man to reason, and they wind up with no car – and quite a bit lighter in the pocket as well.
The Scam: Our scam begins with our team of professional hustlers renting a sleek new car for a day. Quickly, they begin removing all vestiges that the car is a hire; documents come out of the glove box, rental agency tags are removed from the key chain and all decals are peeled off the body.
Bringing the car to a vacant house that they have acquired for the day, they proceed to make the house look lived in by scattering toys about and leaving a tricycle in the driveway. It is important that the marks feel a sense of permanence about the place, and there’s no better way to accomplish this than to portray the place as home to a young family.
An advertisement has been placed in the local classified, announcing that the car is for sale at an unbelievably low price, and the calls start to come in. Our female hustler, alone in the house with her non-existent baby asleep in the nursery, makes appointments with the prospective marks for them to come examine the car.
As they arrive and ring the bell, momma hustler answers the door then excuses herself to go get the keys, and picks up a baby monitor to walk out with – thereby reinforcing the idea of a stable household. A young mother, her baby asleep…and where is hubby? Why, he’s out paying the Road Tax, don’t ya know, and he has all the papers for the car with him.
When did you buy the car? Only a few months ago. Why are you selling it so cheap? My husband was just given a company car, and we want to make a quick sale. And when can I pick it up? Tonight at .
One more thing, though.
There are a few folks coming to see the car after you leave. If you could just give me a deposit – 2 or 3 hundred pounds, maybe? - I could cancel those appointments. If not….
As is typical, the thought of getting such a great deal is too strong a pull for common sense to kick in, and our marks, a whole string of them, arriving a half hour or so apart, hand over their deposits one at a time. And what do they get for their money? Well, a receipt, for one thing. But you cannot drive a receipt, and alas, that receipt will be their only memento of this transaction.
Our young mom and her scamming compatriots leave well before the deadline, taking the props, the toys, the trike – and the hired car – leaving the house just the way they found it: empty. Well, there is a bit of stirring when all our marks show up at looking for the same car, and slowly, slowly, what has happened to this convention of victims dawns on each of them one by one.
The Lesson Learned: Greed is a strong motivating factor in us all. It is part of human nature, and, in moderation, is nothing to be ashamed of. But when we allow greed to cloud our better judgment, the laws of the cosmos dictate that we get what we deserve. The low price should have been a tip-off right from the beginning. But so strong was their quest for a bargain, our marks were more willing to believe any convenient story the scammer fed them than to listen to their own, good common sense. The deposit could have waited for the proper paperwork to be produced, but the marks were only too quick, and too anxious, to fork over their money. A lesson learned, indeed.