Avoid 8 Summer Scams Targeting Your Wallet

June 2016

Warmer days bring thoughts of relaxing summer activities, vacation, and plans for completing home maintenance and repairs. Unfortunately, this is also a prime time for scammers as they target your summer activities to steal your hard-earned money. \It is important to watch out for these wide-spread cons and take steps to protect yourself. This article will help you do that.

Vacation Travel Scams

The Scam. Summer is a popular time for a vacation. Destination choices range, but almost always come at a hefty price. From taking the family to Disney, spending a week at an island resort, enjoying a cruise, or touring abroad, it is not uncommon to search for a good bargain while planning. Con artists take advantage of this by offering too-good-to-be-true "deals" that are actually scams. At best, you may find that the bargain deal offers substandard accommodations and many add-on costs. At worst, you may sign up for the "deal" and pay a deposit (or even prepay the whole cost) only to discover later that there is no trip.

How to Avoid It. Protect yourself by using only reputable companies or websites to book your trip. Beware of deals offered on social media or classified sites such as Craigslist, and check out all companies with the Better Business Bureau. Begin by searching for reviews and complaints by entering the name of the company in your search engine. When making a payment, always pay with a credit card so that you can dispute fraudulent transactions.

Vacation Rental Home Scams

The Scam. Scammers take advantage of your interest to rent a home away from home for your vacation—leasing a house at the beach or a cabin in the mountains are popular choices. Many vacation rentals are listed on social media or web-based listing services where scammers will offer an imaginary property or copy a legitimate listing but substitute their own contact information. When you reserve the rental, they take your credit card information and steal your money. Upon your arrival to the property, you discover it doesn't exist, it was never for rent, or it is occupied by other legitimate renters.

How to Avoid It. First, use only reputable listing sites or agencies that verify property owners and offer rental guarantees. Next, check out the listing service and the property; look for online reviews and complaints. Perform a Google search of the listing text to see if it appears in multiple ads—a sure sign of a con. Check Google Maps Street View or Zillow to see if the property is the same as it is pictured in the ad. You can also use Google to search for multiple uses of the same images in different listings—another sign of a con. If you are using a listing agent, check the business out with the local Better Business Bureau. Pay a deposit only with a credit card; never pay by cashier's check, personal check, or wire transfer.

Watch Out for These Summer Scams

  • Vacation Travel Scams
  • Vacation Rental Home Scams
  • Scams Targeting Hotel Guests
  • Bogus Concert Tickets
  • Summer Job Scams
  • Home Improvement Scams

Two Current Scams Targeting Hotel Guests

The Scam. Most hotels and motels do their best to protect guests, but clever crooks are always developing ways around security measures. One prevalent scam involves a late night call—typically between 2:00 – 3:00 a.m.—to your room phone. The caller claims to be the front desk clerk and apologetically states that your credit card information has not gone through or the "system" has lost your information and asks that you please provide it again. In actuality, a hotel employee is not calling; instead, a crook has bypassed the hotel's phone security and is trying to gather your information to run up charges on your card.

How to Avoid It. Know that the hotel will not make phone calls in the middle of the night to guests. Even if you just checked in at 2:00 a.m. and think the call might be legitimate, hang up and call the front desk directly using the contact information on your phone.

The Scam. Room service is closed, but you are hungry. You just happen to find a flyer for all-night pizza delivery that was slipped under your door that afternoon. You call the number and order a pizza with your debit or credit card. No pizza arrives but large amounts of money begin to vanish from your account or show up on your credit card statement.

How to Avoid It. Although hotels often include restaurant recommendations in their guest information, they do not typically slide flyers under doors or leave them by doors. Hotels try to guard against this scam but have to balance guest security with accessibility. Protect yourself by calling the front desk to ask if the flyer and information is legitimate.

The Bogus Concert Tickets Scam

The Scam. You see an online ad or posting on social media for tickets to a concert or music festival you want to attend. You thought the event was sold out so you jump on the opportunity to purchase tickets. The seller claims they can't go and need to unload their tickets or that they are a "ticket broker" with available tickets. In reality, these are scammers who do not have tickets and are after your credit card number and personal information.

How to Avoid It. Buy tickets only from the concert venue or event-approved websites. If you are too late, don't plan to buy tickets from scalpers outside the concert venue. Not only is this practice illegal in many cities, but those tickets are often counterfeit.

Summer Job Scams

The Scam. You are looking for a temporary summer job and you see a lot of advertisements on social media and websites such as Craigslist. Interested in a position, you contact the "employer" via email or phone as directed by the listing. The company is very interested in you and conducts a phone interview, often very lengthy. By the close of the interview, the person you are talking to says, "You've got the job. You are just the person we need. All we'll need to do to get you started is do a background check; so could we please have your Social Security number and other information" You give them your information and that's the last you hear of any job; but your identity and often your money are stolen.

How to Avoid It. First, check out the company listing the job. If there is no company name in the listing and the person you contact won't give you any information about the company or the employment/screening agency, then break off communication. Check the company and employment agency out with the Better Business Bureau and local consumer affairs offices. Perform a search to find reviews and complaints using the phone number you called. Never give out your Social Security number or personal or financial information on the basis of just email or phone contact. Always verify the company's existence, have a signed contract, and preferably meet the employer before giving information for a background check.

Two Ever Popular Home Improvement Scams

The Scam. A "contractor" knocks on your door. They have been working in the neighborhood and have extra materials on hand—driveway repair, roofing and house painting are popular. As a result, they make you a deal on home repairs. If you will pay for the materials up front, they will do the job right away. You pay only to find that the con men either take your money without doing any work, or do a quick and shoddy job worth far less than what you paid.

How to Avoid It. Refuse these door-to-door offers—they are usually fraudulent. Even on projects where you research and employ a contractor, always have a written contract that spells out the project's requirements, materials and costs, and never pay the complete cost up front.

The Scam: Some home security and home alarm companies hire temporary sales agents in the summer to sell their services door-to-door. Some home entertainment and communications companies may do the same. Even when the services are legitimate, some of the door-to-door agents may use high pressure sales techniques, imply that the equipment is free but fail to mention the high cost contract for security monitoring or entertainment packages. In some cases, the quality of the services may be poor.

How to Avoid It: Even if the door-to-door salesperson represents a company you know to be legitimate, the better response is to say no to the salesperson on your doorstep. If you are in need of a home security or alarm system, or a new entertainment or communications provider, do independent research to compare services and their track record first, and then contact the company directly.

Summer Time is Easy When You Slam the Door on Scams

All of these scams work because scammers know that consumers are trusting, want to save money, and like a quick and easy solution. You can avoid them all and protect your money and personal information by being skeptical, taking time to adequately check out companies and offers, and never saying yes to a "deal" you can’t verify.

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