Scammers are masters of misdirection and illusion, so it’s good to be on your guard. One of the best ways to protect yourself against scams is knowing what one looks like before you encounter it.
Here are the top five most common summer scams to watch out for.
1. Phishing scams
Phishing has been around a long time, but not everyone knows what the term means. When scammers use phishing, they pose as a trusted source or company that contacts you via electronic communication, typically email. Email scams are common, and phishing scams are also popping up on mobile devices and web applications.
If you receive any type of electronic message (via phone or computer) that asks you to input personal information directly, it’s a scam. No trustworthy entity will email you asking for passwords or bank information, and you will always have to login at a trusted and secure site. Be wary of any messages asking for such information. If you have doubts about a particular company being legitimate, look it up on the Better Business Bureau website.
2. Unsolicited 'you’ve won a trip!' scams
Travel scams are nothing new, but recently the BBB of Kansas City has received reports of travel scams using phishing on mobile devices, among other techniques. First of all, if you didn’t enter a contest to win a trip somewhere, then the vacation offer is unsolicited and should immediately put you on high alert. Secondly, if you receive a travel offer through email, it’s unlikely to be from a reliable travel agent or site.
3. 'Get away if you pay now' scams
Some other examples of travel scams include someone offering a limited-time getaway as soon as you wire a comparatively small amount of money or use a prepaid debit card to get the booking. These types of payments are impossible to get back, so pay for planned vacations with a credit card to add security for yourself. If an unsolicited offer comes for something that’s truly a screaming deal, check other resources before paying anything.
4. Timeshare resale scams
Another common scam is the “timeshare resale” scam, where someone contacts you claiming to be a real estate agent or broker. If you already have a timeshare you are trying to sell, the scammer may claim to have an eager buyer, and will request an upfront fee for the service. Don’t be fooled by these claims, otherwise you may end up paying a “realtor” or “broker” an upfront fee for a deal that won't happen. Scammers love to feed on the weak or desperate, and they will often fabricate a false sense of urgency to make you pay up. As always, never respond to someone you don’t know who is requesting any type of money or payment, especially online.
5. General phone scams
The appeal of a phone scam is the scammer uses a conversation to make you feel frazzled or pressured. Some scams even have automated systems that say something along the lines of, “press 1 to avoid losing this deal,” but pressing 1 results in a charge on your phone. If you get unsolicited calls from an unknown number, ignore them or hang up immediately. If the matter is legitimate, the caller will leave a voicemail. Exercise good judgment and common sense, and never give money to suspicious sources, no matter how good the deal is.