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Motor Trip Hoax, 1944
I found the following story posted in the March 3, 1944 issue of the Carteret Press (scanned and hosted by the Woodbridge, NJ Public Library):

Los Angeles — A new kind of hoax was pulled when four men answered an ad asking for passengers on a trip to Raleigh, N.C. The driver picked them up, collected $50 from each and then stopped at the post office. He went inside and that was the last the passengers saw of him. The car had been rented.

But I'm having trouble understanding exactly how the scam would have been profitable. First, if the car was a rental, wouldn't it have been easy to find out the identity of the scammer? Unless, of course, he used a fake ID to rent the car. Second, some kind of deposit must have been required by the rental agency. By abandoning the car, the scammer would have lost this deposit. But if he took in more from the victims than he lost on the deposit, I suppose this wouldn't matter.

Perhaps I just answered my own questions!
Posted by The Curator on Tue Mar 12, 2013

peoAlso remember this was 1944 not 2013. I'm a massive history buff and things were a lot different a lot more was done on good will. so another alternative to your idea of collecting more than the deposit is that there just wasn't one. Think about it as someone from 1944, they expected you to be responsible... trusted you to be responsible... that POSSIBLY accounts for the seemingly lack of deposit. and the modern wide spread of ID's didn't exist then... ppl didn't have licenses like we do now it wasn't uncommon to see a 13 or 14 year old driving cause a lot learned on the farm or just did cause ppl didn't care... drinking and tobacco laws weren't as strict either nor did credit/debit cards exist... the idea of carding someone just didn't exist... when you look at these old tricks you gotta look at them through the eyes of the people of that time.
Posted by HOWDY  on  Wed Mar 13, 2013  at  01:46 AM

According to this a house rent cost $50 a month, so $200 was quite a bit of cash to get out of them. QF.htm

A car would have been approx $1220 apparently.
Posted by Mr R  on  Wed Mar 13, 2013  at  04:23 AM
Right and think about the price of renting vs. Buying today... renting is next to nothing comparatively so if a car cost $1220 renting wasn't much... you could make a lot with that scam back then...
Posted by HOWDY  on  Wed Mar 13, 2013  at  04:27 AM
According to an inflation calculator, $50 dollars is approximately $350 in today's dollars. $1050 is quite a haul. In today's dollars, I can easily rent a car for $50 a day. Although a bit elaborate, I can see how it could be profitable.
Posted by CLF  in  h-town  on  Sun Mar 17, 2013  at  03:10 PM
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