5 Scams to Steer Clear of this Summer
Before you hire a mover, commit to a vacation package or accept a summer job, read this
In summer, the livin’ is easy — especially for scam artists who line their pockets by taking advantage of the season. For example, last year, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported receiving nearly 400 complaints about bogus offers for super cheap travel deals, vacation rentals, free airline tickets and more.
Don’t let a scam ruin your summer. Here’s how the most common ones work and how you can outsmart a scammer.
Scam #1: Timeshare rentals and vacation deals
How it works: Potential customers are lured by a scam artist with attractive images of real timeshare or vacation properties that can be had for very low prices. The scammer, who calls himself the property “owner,” requests a deposit via wire transfer. When the victim arrives at the site, it’s either not the same nice place as in the photo, it’s actually not available for rent or it simply doesn’t exist.
Similarly, you may come across too-good-to-be-true packages for theme parks and other popular vacation spots.
Don’t be fooled: Visit only well-known sites when searching for a vacation rental. One savvy trick: Check URLs. The BBB warns, “Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL, part of a longer URL or use an unconventional top level domain.”
You can check with the BBB to make sure a rental company is legit. If you find a place to rent, get everything in writing and review all terms and conditions, taxes and fees and cancellation policies before you hand over a dime. Never pay upfront, and when you do, use a credit card or PayPal so any disputed charges can be checked.
When booking a vacation package, make sure to use a real travel agent or legitimate website. If you aren't sure, Google the phone number or website and look for complaints about the company from others.
Scam #2: Moving company deals
How it works: Because people often relocate during the summer, unlicensed movers and dishonest scam artists prey on folks who are changing residences. They may charge more than their original estimate or even steal your stuff.
Don’t be fooled: Before you hire a moving company, research it online and talk to others who've used it. You also can see if it’s been reviewed by the BBB. If a company doesn’t send out a rep to look at your belongings and give you an estimate of how much the move will cost, it’s probably not legit. Get several estimates and be wary of any that are much lower than the rest: An unrealistic low-ball offer is likely to cost you more in the end.
Scam #3: Concert tickets
How it works: Phony ticket sellers often will trick music lovers into wiring money to pay for tickets — with no intention of sending them. Another common tactic: Sending fake tickets. Because many venues allow buyers to print out tickets on personal computers, a scammer can sell the same ticket over and over. The first person to buy the ticket will get in, but anyone else holding the same ticket will be left out in the cold.
Don’t be fooled: The BBB says to be suspicious of a concert ticket seller who uses a sob story to explain why he’s selling tickets, or who will accept only cash, a wire transfer or a prepaid money transfer. The organization also warns against giving in to pressure to act fast.
Related: How to Tell if a Charity is Legit
Scam #4: Door-to-door solicitations
How it works: Ding-dong — a scammer’s calling. The long days and fair weather between mid-March and the end of September create the perfect opportunity for devious door-to-door salespeople peddling everything from magazine subscriptions to handyman or home improvement services.
Don’t be fooled: Be wary of someone who accepts only cash and pushes you to dig into your wallet right away, who's driving a car that doesn’t have the company logo on it or who doesn’t have letterhead or business cards. Never buy anything on the spot: Tell the seller that you want to do a little research first. If he balks, it’s likely he’s running a sham business.
“A reputable seller will give you time to think through the deal and make an appointment to return at a later date,” says the BBB. Meanwhile, you can research the company by speaking to references or checking the BBB’s Business Review. Above all, never allow someone into your home. If you feel threatened or a salesperson refuses to leave, shut the door, lock it and call the police.
Scam #5: Summer jobs
How it works: Funds-hungry high school and college students are most vulnerable to fake job opportunities that can waste their time, lead to identity theft and even cost money.
Don’t be fooled: Never accept a job that you haven’t been interviewed for — and never give a potential “employer” any personal or financial information. Other red flags, according to the BBB:
- an employer who doesn’t have a website or contact information
- one who isn’t able to give you details about the job in writing
- one who either promises a lot of money for simple work or who charges for training, background checks or drug tests.