While any month of the year is fair game for fraudsters at the ready with their particular brand of chicanery, consumer watchdogs caution that summer tends to go hand in hand with a spike in distinct types of fraudulent schemes, and 2018 is no different. From home repairs and relocations, to vacations and concert-going, summer activities present a wealth of opportunities for crooks looking to bilk you out of your money. Here are a few of the most popular warm-weather ploys they’re likely to attempt this season.
Summer Job Scams: If you or your high school or college-aged child is still looking for part-time summer work, be cautious when disclosing personal identifiable information as part of a job search. Identity thieves are known to use employment sites like Indeed to conduct their scams, as this can be a good cover for requesting information such as a social security number or address. Before providing any sensitive information to a prospective employer you don’t know, do some research online to ensure the organization is legitimate. Also check the listing against job postings on the organization’s website, if available. And of course, any requests for payment as part of an “application fee” or “training” are highly suspect.
Counterfeit Tickets: According to AARP, nearly 5 million people buy fake tickets to concerts, sporting events and theme parks each year. For this reason, it’s generally best to purchase event tickets from a well-known, reputable broker like StubHub, Ticketmaster or Coast to Coast Tickets, rather than taking a chance on an unfamiliar vendor or buying from an individual on Craigslist or eBay. Another excellent choice is Goldstar, which offers half-price deals on leisure and live entertainment including world-class music and theatrical productions, nightlife, sports and more.
The Bargain Move: With many families preferring to move in summer when the kids are out of school, plenty of unlicensed charlatans posing as moving professionals will offer to pack and transport household items for one low fee. A common trick they use is to quote one price on the phone, and then once they’ve packed and loaded up all of the items, to demand a much higher payment to be made in full before the belongings are delivered to the new home. Avoid having your possessions held hostage by doing the due diligence to ensure that the company you hire is licensed, reliable and trustworthy. Also be aware that a moving company should not give you an estimate over the phone or internet without an in-person or video inspection. Find tips on “How to Know if a Moving Company Is Legitimate” at Move.com.
Too-Good-to-Be-True Vacation Rentals: Anyone who’s ever been charged with finding a suitable summer vacation rental knows just how much legwork it can take to find the ideal property that will accommodate everyone’s needs at a reasonable price. Scammers know this all too well, and it’s not uncommon for them to lift photos off legitimate rental sites or social media and then represent the property as their own, available for rent at a hugely discounted price. In many cases, vacation-goers don’t realize they’ve been duped until they arrive at their destination and can’t find the home, or can’t get access to it. To steer clear of this scam, book through third-party marketplaces such as Airbnb, FlipKey or HomeAway, which have policies in place to protect renters, and avoid generic classified sites such as Craigslist. Also stay alert to any requests for advance payments through methods such as a wire transfer, money order, cash or cashier’s check, which are clear red flags. For peace of mind, check out “7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Vacation Rental Scams” from TripSavvy.
The Front Desk Scam: This is a simple tactic used on travelers, who scam artists hope to catch with their guard down due to a relaxed vacation mindset. After checking into a hotel room, guests receive a phone call from “reception” about a problem with the guest’s credit card. The caller then asks to verify the card details, which unsuspecting guests often then hand over to the thief. If a hotel encounters a problem with your credit card, this will be evident at check-in. Hang up immediately on any call you get like this, and then call the front desk yourself or go to the lobby to follow up.
Final words of advice: As Consumer Reports admonishes, one of the most effective ways to keep scammers from cutting into your summer plans is to make sure you have adequately researched any new person or organization before conducting business with them. This may include checking reviews, calling references or doing a general online search of the company or individual’s name along with key words such as “complaints” or “scams.” The Better Business Bureau is another good resource for uncovering potential problems, as is the online service SiteJabber, which provides reviews and ratings of online businesses.