BBB warns of common summer scams
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Scammers never take a vacation, but they do change their schemes based on the season.
“The thing to remember about scammers is that they operate all throughout the year,” said Alex Derencz, Communications Manager, Better Business Bureau Serving Central and South Alabama. “But, when it comes to scammers, they have certain times of the years circled a little bit darker on the calendar.”
Summer is one of those times. From fake vacation rentals to phony jobs, Derencz said scammers are playing off consumer behavior and shifting their targets.
“Scammers know that students are home from college for the summer, high school students home for the summer, that represents a lot of opportunity for them.”
So much opportunity, the BBB says 30 percent of job scams last year were reported during the summer months.
“If a job asks you to pay money to get that job, back away from it,” warned Derencz.
Many families go on vacation during the summer, and Derencz said scammers are more than happy to book your trip. Beware of unsolicited emails offering great vacation deals.
“Remember that scammers, they have the ability to pull listings, and pull different pictures and graphics from other sites to try to make it look like you’re dealing with a legitimate site, when in actuality it couldn’t be.”
To ensure you’re on a legitimate website, Derencz said to check for the lock symbol next to the web address. He also suggests backing away from a deal if the person you’re communicating with is aggressive or pushy. “They say, ‘You need to act fast, because I’ve got 5 other people looking at this. If you act now, no one else will get this.’ So watch out for that urgent language.”
No matter the season, Derencz said signs of a potential scam include asking you to pay using a gift card or wire transfer.
- Research job offers first. Visit a company’s website and look up their contact information. Verify the company exists and the job posting is real before you interact with a stranger. Do an internet search with the company’s name and the word “scam” to see if anyone has reported a fake job offer. Look on BBB.org to see any unresolved complaints or negative reviews.
- Beware of jobs that involve receiving and returning money. Legitimate companies don’t generally send money to new employees before work is done. They certainly don’t ask you to return funds that you’ve already been paid.
- Be careful with your personal information. Never provide anyone with your personal information until you are sure you can trust them with it. Do all the necessary research before divulging anything personal. Never let someone pressure you into giving up your personal information because it’s a “now or never” offer.
- Watch out for easy hires. If a company claims they want to hire you without meeting you either virtually or in-person, and if they don’t conduct a job interview, you’re probably dealing with a scammer.
- Vacation Rental Con: Vacation rentals are a great option to travel and have the comforts of home. Watch out for listings for properties that either aren’t for rent, don’t exist, or are significantly different than pictured. These con artists lure in vacationers with the promise of low fees and great amenities. The “owner” creates a false sense of urgency – such as telling potential clients that another vacationer is interested in the rental – to get payment up before doing sufficient research or questioning the legitimacy of the ad.
- “Free” Vacation Scams: When a cruise or travel company advertises a vacation as “free,” it does not necessarily mean the trip is entirely without cost or restrictions. Watch out for add-on fees for air transportation to the port, port charges, taxes, tips and other undisclosed fees.
- Hotel Scams: When staying in a hotel, beware of these techniques used to get ahold of credit card information. Scammers count on travelers - tourists and business people alike -- being tired or in a hurry.
- Third Party Booking Site Scams: If you book your airfare, hotel or other travel through a third-party website, be sure to use caution. BBB Scam Tracker continues to receive reports of scammers pretending to be online airline ticket brokers. In the most common version of the scam, traveler’s pay with a credit card and shortly after making the payment, receive a call from the company asking to verify name, address, banking information or other personal details – something a legitimate company would never do. Learn more about these booking scams.
- Timeshare Reselling Cons: Another common travel scam is the timeshare resale con. A timeshare owner who is looking to sell gets a call from someone claiming to be a real estate broker or agent. These scammers claim to specialize in timeshare resales and promise they have buyers ready to purchase. To secure this service, the scammer pressures the target into paying an upfront fee. The timeshare owner pays up, but the reselling agent never delivers.
General Tips to Avoid Vacation Scams:
- Look for reviews and ask for references. While vetting hotels, travel companies, vacation rentals and more, check BBB.org for reviews and complaints. Look for photos and a variety of reviews. If the property or company doesn’t have any online reviews, ask for references and call them.
- Avoid wiring money or using a prepaid debit card. These payments are the same as sending cash. Once the money is sent, there is no way to get it back. Paying with a credit card the charges can be disputed and dramatically limit liability from a fraudulent purchase.
- A great deal probably isn’t the truth. Scammers lure in targets by guaranteeing an amazing trip at a very low price. Research it first. If the hotel, travel or tour is much cheaper than similar options, be suspicious.
- Do some snooping. Check the website for links to the company’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts. Often, scam artists will link to Facebook.com instead of Facebook.com/THEIRCOMPANYNAME. If they do have social media accounts, check their activity and see if any other users have left reviews or voiced complaints. Also, look for typos and pixelated images. These mistakes are signs of a scammer, not a company that cares about their online presence.
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