Identity Theft

Every so often, we write about bad things renters do with rental cars. Examples include the Virginia woman who "had been in possession" of a stolen rental car for more than two years before the rental car company noticed the car was missing, and the Florida couple who blew up a rental car while trying to smoke in a car with a leaking gas grill. Apparently, the history of aberrant behavior with rental cars has a high density in the Southeast United States, as the story of Cynthia Howard recently hit the news. She stole patient identities from her employer, rented a car in someone else's name, and managed to get discovered because she returned the car. And that takes both criminal behavior and criminal ineptitude.

How to Get Caught in Identity Theft When Returning a Rental Car

Here's the backstory. Ms. Howard worked for a company called Atlanta Allergy and Asthma as a short-term employee. She stole the identifying information of at least ten individuals -- including drivers license numbers and credit card information -- while on that short-term assignment. She then used one of the stolen identities to rent a car and even returned the rental car. Most incidents of identity theft and rental cars are caught when the car's not returned; that's the reason for myriad driver verification processes before rentals.  

So how did she get caught for identity theft? She left the documentation of various stolen identities in the rental car, and the rental car company contacted Atlanta Allergy and Asthma

This is where we give mad props to the unnamed rental car company. There's not much you can do if a customer presents a license and credit card that has valid information. But to realize that the patient information left in a rental car was an aberration and for the turn-around crew to act upon that information? That's A+ work by the person prepping the car. We suspect that many other cleaners would simply throw the files away, send through the shredder, or call the "renter" to note documents were left in the car.   

Here's our fictionalized re-enactment of how Ms. Howard got caught:

A labelled binder with tabs on the back seat.

Think this is farfetched? Remember -- she rented a car using someone else's personal information yet the rental car company realized something was wrong. The documents she allegedly stole (hasn't been convicted) were found in the rental car she possessed, and this was tracked back to her real name and employer in May of 2017. Ms. Howard was summarily fired.

We would suppose (probably incorrectly) that police were present at the time of firing, as most employers don't take kindly to felony theft. So why did it take another five months before this made the news when the rental car company discerned the fraud in May and the employee was fired in May? That would be a good question for the Office of the Fulton County District Attorney, so we varied from the newscast and conducted some research -- online public records are great when dealing with criminals and alleged criminals, as they contain easy-to-access facts. Ms. Howard was charged on May 30, 2017, and indicted on July 21, 2017. Why is this a big deal in October? Well, Ms. Howard (or whatever name she's using now) is nowhere to be found, and Fulton County has so far snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in prosecuting a made-to-order identity theft case.

She won't tell them her name.

Fortunately, fraudulent transactions are comparatively few in the U.S. rental car industry, which has a cumulative fleet of 2.2 million cars in the United States alone.

Want to know what else is nowhere to be found? Atlanta Allergy and Asthma's crisis mitigation specialist; there's no notice on either their website or Facebook about the data breach. 


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