Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rental Car scams

I just got back from a trip to New Mexico where I rented a car from Alamo. One of the many questions is how to pay for gas. I chose to return the car empty and pay Alamo's $2.73/gallon rate to refill it on return. The other option is to return it full, or pay over $4.00/gallon to fill it on return. The latter is more attractive to Alamo, so check your paperwork carefully, in case the rental agent "forgets" to use the right option (they did forget in my case, but switched it when I complained on returning the car).

I had a Chevy Malibu, I'm guessing a 2010. Almost all cars in the past few years come with an on-board computer that tells fuel economy in various ways, and how many miles left in the tank. Strangely, the Chevy Malibu didn't. I checked Chevy's web site and the new 2011 model comes with this computer as a standard option. So, either one of two things has happened: Chevy made the computer standard between 2010 and 2011, or Alamo has enough buying clout to get Chevy to make a rental-car version of the Malibu without this trip computer. And since the trip computer would have made it very easy to return the car with an empty tank, it is to Alamo's advantage to not have it.

I returned the car empty. And they charged me for 16 gallons of gas (which is pretty accurate, 16.1 gallons according to the website). But they charged me $2.73 plus 7% sales tax (which is the rate for the city I was in) plus 5% "leased gross receipt" plus a 9.89 percent "concession fee".

The sign on the desk said "$2.73 per gallon" with no asterisk or any information about the additional charges. I was told by the rental agent both on rental and return that $2.73 was the going rate of gas in the city. It wasn't. There were stations charging that much, but most charged less, and I bought gas at $2.57 in the suburbs.

When I buy gas at a station, they never charge sales tax. New Mexico actually doesn't have a sales tax, they have a gross receipts tax. But my bill shows me paying both.

The sign on the desk said $2.73/gallon. It didn't say anything about the almost 10% surcharge for a concession fee. Nor about the 7% and 5% taxes.

The amount is not much. I don't think an attorney general or the BBB would talk to me over this amount. But it is dishonest and unethical. Buying special model cars to prevent consumers from knowing how much gas in the tank is dishonest and unethical.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Domain Registry of America

I just got a paper letter from Domain Registry of America telling me my domain was going to expire soon and I could renew with them for their best price. But they sent it to my home address, not the P.O.Box address I use for all domain contacts.

I don't know how they do this. I'm pretty sure I never used the address for any of my domains. The domain is actually my name (first and last) dot org. I haven't received any other letters like this for my other domains, so I think they have purchased a usps mailing list from someone and correlated it to domain names.

The letter in question was a pretty straightforward attempt to catch me sleeping. It stated my domain was about to expire, and I really really really needed to renew it, and by sending in 3 times the annual amount I currently pay they would be happy to transfer me to their service.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The latest facebook phishing scam

There's a facebook phishing e-mail going around, it tells you your password has been reset and the new password is in a zip file attached to the mail message. There's nothing unusual about the phishing attempt. It's unusual that it is receiving so much attention, but that isn't newsworthy to me.

What is unusual and newsworthy is the source of the e-mail addresses it was mailed to. I use a different e-mail address whenever I register at a website. Typically it is company name @ my domain. Not only does this lead to lots of fun confusion when I tell a company representative my e-mail address (I've been accused of lying), but it also lets me track if the company sells their e-mail list, or uses it in nefarious scamming ways.

And it lets me see when a company might have been hacked, and their e-mail list stolen. I've received two messages so far, one for my Roku ( e-mail, and one for my Big Brand Water Filter ( e-mail. I don't know anything about Big Brand Water Filter, other than they sell cheap water filter parts, but Roku has always been a reputable company. I suspect their e-mail list has been stolen somehow.

Update: I cannot remember exactly in which context I used the roku address. I have purchased from them, and used their support forums, but I also had a professional relationship with them, and the only support forum account I could remember used my work e-mail address. The Big Brand Water Filter was used for a purchase, and only once I think. It is troublesome to think that the phishers hacked into servers and had access to sales data.