San Jose, Costa Rica – The following is a story we came across speaking about an incident that happened with Mapache Car Rental in Costa Rica. This person wrote this about their experience. We encourage people to do their own due diligence and take care when dealing with Costa Rica businesses and always check your credit card statements to watch for credit card fraud.
We visited Costa Rica in October for 10 days, rented a car from Mapache Car Rental through the Adventure Inn. The car and the pickup and delivery at the hotel were fine, the guy was professional and polite.
The contract included a free cell phone (an Adventure Inn extra) with a week’s rental, but we would owe $1.60/minute for any actual use. We did not use the cell phone at all during the entire rental; it was turned off the entire time.
When we turned the car in and signed the final documents, there was no contract from Telefono Compartido that I signed, nor did I receive a copy of one.
My December credit card bill, however, included two surprise charges, for $265.10 each. One was for a GPS system which we never asked for, never signed for in the contract, and never received. The other was from Telefono Compartido, for cell phone rental!
I called Mapache directly and politely disputed the charges. A nice young man promised to get back by the end of the day. He never got back to me at all.
I then wrote the Adventure Inn. They wrote a very strong email to Mapache, copy to me, and separately asked me to give them a little time. I did. Nothing happened.
So I filed a dispute on both charges with my credit card company, who called me, got details. About a month later, the two charges were both cleared by my credit card company. End of story? Not.
Two weeks after that, in late January, a third charge appeared on my credit card, again for $265.10 (like the first two, I was beginning to think someone had a $265.10 mortgage payment to make). This charge was labeled “Rebill-Telefono Compartido”. I immediately filed another dispute with the credit card company, providing the entire story again.
About 15 days later, I received a paper letter from my credit card company. They informed me that they had received copies of the contract, and explanatory letter, and the credit card paper slip, and that Mapache had billed this because “the cell phone was free, but the customer had used minutes on it, and this billing was for the minutes used”. The credit card company included copies of this paperwork. The contract was made out to show 2 hours and 21 minutes of cell phone usage during that week, and had my signature on it in three separate places. The credit card slip had my signature as well. The credit card company said that since all that paperwork was presented and looked valid, they could not reject the charge.
This was obvious, but sophisticated fraud. I never signed any of these documents, or saw them. I only signed one credit card slip, a separate one for the car rental itself. I believe they used photocopies of my signature on the original car rental contract, cut and taped them to generate these papers, photocopied them again and sent them to the credit card company. I thing the credit card slip was never sent in during original billing, they used electronic billing at their office.
It is also very curious, to say the least, the minutes billed to my credit card was $265.10, as in the original fraudulent charges. But the 2 hours and 21 minutes in the contract that was sent in later as proof only added up to $254.92.
My credit card company suggested that for sure they would credit the extra $10 and change to my account for that discrepancy. They would also forward my complaint to their fraud division, but I would have to produce paperwork of my own showing the Telefono Compartido contract to be fraudulent. This was not going to be possible, of course, because I never saw, signed, or received a copy of a Telefono Compartido contract.
Please be aware this is not an isolated incident. Tripadviser shows other complaints about Mapache that are very similar, in which tampered or fraudulent documents were sent in to the customer’s credit card company. Google “Mapache Car Rental Fraud” or “Scam”.
I will say, I do not think Adventure Inn is at all complicit in this fraud. I believe them to be honest and scrupulous, and actually trying their best to connect their customers with what they perceive as an honest car rental company. I was not aware how common scams and frauds in car rentals are in Costa Rica until now, apparently including a good number of the major American car rental companies as well.
I’m not sure what I will do in the future for a car in Costa Rica since I return there regularly, but I can assure you it will never be Mapache again.