By Dave Savini and Michele Youngerman
CHICAGO (CBS) - Criminals nationwide are stealing victims' identities and using those to rent cars. These rentals are then stolen, sold, and shipped overseas, or used here to commit other crimes locally.
In either case, the identity theft victim is left to clean up the mess.
Brandon Mayes is one of the latest local victims. His identity was stolen in 2019, and the thieves have rented multiple cars from different companies. Brandon now faces more than $30,000 in debt related to these fraudulent rentals. He also faces police scrutiny.
"It got to a point where, you know, I was getting pulled over," Mayes said.
Mayes is a proud Northern Illinois University graduate, football standout, and NFL undrafted free agent hopeful. He says his good name has now become a sore spot.
"And the police had to like really check who I was. And I think that's when it really hit me," said Mayes. "This is really out of hand."
In 2019, while working part time in a Chicago nightclub called PRYSM, Mayes' car was broken into and his wallet stolen.
"I automatically cancelled all my cards; put a fraud alert on them," said Mayes. "You know, cancelled everything."
But it wasn't the credit cards causing Mayes the problem, it was his driver's license. It turns out the stolen license was just what the thieves needed to carry out an extensive crime spree involving rental cars.
"I'm tired of dealing with the same thing over and over and over and over again," said Brandon.
His identity was used to rent at least eight expensive vehicles from various rental locations, including at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and in Joliet, Aurora, and Shorewood. The fraudulent rentals put Mayes on the radar of police.
"The last three times I've been pulled over, they would ask me to get out of the car. You know, they'll put me in cuffs," said Brandon.
His mother, Sharron Mayes, said this is a terrible situation she's been trying to help him fix for years.
"It's terrifying," said Sharron Mayes.
One night, she said she waited in fear after he called to tell her police had stopped him - again.
"I still hate for him to even go out, like late nights or whatever," said Sharron Mayes, "just because I know this thing is still out here that has not been dealt with."
A few months after Brandon Mayes' wallet was taken, he received the first notice about a car being rented in his name. Then the notices kept coming from different companies - Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and Alamo -- holding him responsible for rental cars he never rented.
At one point, Mayes wasn't even old enough to rent a car and his license was expired. Yet somehow, the criminals were still able to use his ID to rent them. Mayes said he has repeatedly called the companies begging them to stop renting cars in his name. He said he also asked for any video they might have of the criminal, or criminals. He got nothing, except the bills.
Mayes thinks the companies would want to find out who was using his driver's license - because surely they would like to get their money back.
"But then at the end of the day, I see that they're just continuously going to send me the bills," said Mayes. "That's the only thing they do give me is a nice letter saying: 'This is the final notice - you owe $20,000. This is a final notice - you owe $10,000.'"
There have been a lot of bills. One was for a car returned with thousands of dollars in damage after it was involved in an expressway shooting on I-294. In another case, the thieves never even returned the car. They stole it, and stuck Mayes with the bill.
"The rental car companies will not cooperate," said Sharron Mayes. "No rental car companies - none of them - have cooperated. Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, none of them have cooperated - none. All they can tell me is that the car is in my son's name. But nothing"
Ms. Mayes has been trying to help her son battle the rental companies and their collection agencies hounding him.
"I mean, they've just like not taken our phone calls," she said. "I've called. I've made reports. I've been his unpaid investigator - so to speak - because I'm the one making the calls, sending the emails, doing everything - just trying to clear my son's name."
They've both also been trying to clear up tickets and fines racked up by the identity thieves in the rental cars. More than $1,000 in tollway fines, parking tickets, and speed and red light cameras too.
"Here's another red light violation - $100. When you don't pay those, they double by $100," said Sharron Mayes as she looked through a pile of violation notices. "And here's another $60 ticket. They just keep adding up and adding up."
"So then my car gets booted," said Brandon Mayes. "I got booted, because all these charges are popping up under my name - even though it's not me."
There's one more thing Mayes has to worry about on top of all that. He recently tried to rent a car while traveling, but was rejected because of the fraudulent rentals. Yet somehow, the bad guys are still able to get cars in his name.
"I actually just got another bill not even a month ago, where someone rented another car," said Brandon. "It's still happening."
Because of our investigation, Hertz and Enterprise are finally looking into Brandon Mayes' case. Avis did not respond to our messages.
Meanwhile, there is one police agency trying to help Mayes. The Illinois Secretary of State police are now on the case trying to help clear his name.
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