CHARLOTTE, N.C. – With summer upon us, U.S. Attorney Dena J. King urges consumers to be mindful of vacation, employment, and other summertime schemes, and take measures to avoid falling victims to common summer scams.
“Summer is the time of the year that many of us vacation, travel, and spend time with family and friends. But it’s also a popular time for scammers to maximize their profits by preying on consumers trying to save money on a good summer deal. Stay vigilant and beware of summer scams. Think before you buy and don’t let a scammer turn your summer into a nightmare,” said U.S. Attorney King.
The most common scams to look out for during the summer include:
Free or Discounted Vacation Packages – Whether it’s an email congratulating you for winning a free trip that requires you “only” to pay for fees and taxes, or a link to a website offering limited-time travel discounts, these types of summer scams are prominent. Common vacation scams include discounted deals on cruises, all-inclusive resorts, and flights, hotels and car rentals to popular destinations. Don’t be fooled by vacation scams and avoid the urge to take advantage of these too-good-to-be-true offers. Instead, book your travel through reputable, well-known travel engines or travel agencies. If you receive a special travel offer through email, do not make reservations using the provided link, even if it appears to be from a well-known travel booking website. Instead, go directly to the booking engine’s web page to locate the deal and make travel arrangements.
Low-Priced Vacation Rentals – Similar to bogus vacation packages, beware of scammers posting fake short-term rental properties available for a bargain price at popular vacation spots. Sometimes the advertised properties do not exist. Other times, scammers use photos of actual rental properties to create fraudulent listings. Be extra careful before booking a short-term rental property online especially one advertised at a discounted price. To avoid falling victim to this type of scam, either contact a local real estate company that specializes in vacation rentals or search the desired property on multiple short-term rental websites prior to booking to ensure the listing is not a scam. Also, ask the renter for additional photos, and reserve the property using a payment option that makes it easier to recoup a fraudulent charge.
Discounted Excursions or Entertainment Events – Be vigilant against scams that tout limited time offers on vacation excursions or cheap tickets to entertainment events, such as concerts. When booking an excursion, research the company offering the deal. Look for customer reviews that date a few months or years back to ensure this is a well-established business and check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints on file. In addition, call the company directly before making an online credit card purchase. When buying tickets to events, it’s best to use reputable ticket sellers to ensure the tickets you are purchasing are legitimate.
Free Wi-Fi – During the summer, many people are on the go. With more and more businesses, restaurants, and venues offering free wi-fi access, it is easy to become a victim of wi-fi fraud. With this type of scam, fraudsters use what appears to be legitimate “free” wi-fi to dupe users into connecting to networks that can steal their information. Free wi-fi networks are generally unsecured. To the extent possible, avoid using them altogether, but definitely avoid using them to transmit sensitive information or conduct financial transactions.
Online summer Jobs – Online summer jobs offer an opportunity for extra income. If you are applying for a summer job online, take extra precautions with furnishing personally identifying information (PII) such as a Social Security number, date of birth, home address, etc. Be extra cautious with online employers who require applicants to send their PII for the purpose of conducting a background check before being offered the job. Instead, research the company and call the company directly to ensure it is a legitimate business in need of summer help.
The Moving Scam – Lots of people take advantage of the summer months to move. Unfortunately, scammers also are looking to exploit consumers in need of moving services. Moving schemes offering discounted deals can end up being very costly. When moving, take the time to research moving companies and ask for referrals. Be mindful of moving companies that offer low prices, have recent or no online reviews, or ask for advance payment to “lock in” the discounted rate. Check with the local Better Business Bureau to make sure you are dealing with a reputable moving company.
The tips below can help keep you safe from fraud this summer:
- Avoid paying with wire transfers, cash, gift cards, or sending money to individuals with whom you have only communicated online.
- Avoid “free” deals that require you to pay a fee. If a deal is truly free, you should never have to pay for any portion of it.
- Do not give out your credit card, bank account or other personal information.
- Before going on vacation, whether stateside or overseas, contact your banking institution and credit companies so they can alert you of unusual spending patterns or high dollar credit card charges.
- After your vacation, check your credit card or banking statements for extra or fraudulent charges.
To report fraud, file an online complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.