It’s the season of flip-flops and ice pops, of sun-drenched afternoons and lazy days at the beach. Unfortunately, summertime is also prime time for scammers. People are more relaxed, schedules are looser and vacationers are traveling in unfamiliar locations. All of this can lead people to let their guard down during the summer, and the scammers know it.
Don’t fall victim to a summer scam! Follow these tips to stay safe.
1. Never pay for a “prize” vacation - The Classic Summer Scam
So you won an all-expense-paid trip to Aruba or a whirl-wind weekend in a remote French chalet? All you have to do is pay a small fee to reserve your prize. Although it sounds like a dream come true, if you commit to the deal, you’ll be caught up in a nightmare. If you’re asked to pay even a small fee to claim a free vacation prize, you’re looking at a scam. A legitimate company will never ask winners to pay a fee for a prize.
2. Use credit cards when traveling - Protection from Summer Scams
A credit card will offer you the most protection in case something goes wrong. You’ll be able to dispute unauthorized charges, and in most cases, reclaim your lost funds.
To learn more about Harvester Financial credit cards, click here.
3. Ignore celebrity messages - The Fame Effect Summer Scam
Celebrities might have a direct line with the public through their social media platforms, but don’t believe a private message appearing to be from your favorite movie star, singer or athlete. Direct messages from "celebrities" asking for money for a charity, or claiming you’ve won a prize, but need to pay a processing fee, is a scam.
4. Check for skimmers at the pump - Skimmer Summer Scam
If you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road this summer, and pumping gas in unfamiliar places, it’s a good idea to check the card reader for skimmers before going ahead with your transaction. A card skimmer will read your credit or debit card information, enabling a scammer to empty your accounts. Here’s how to check for a skimmer on a card reader:
- Try to wiggle the card reader; this should dislodge a skimmer if there is one.
- Check the keypad to see if it looks newer than the rest of the card reader.
- Touch the surface of the keypad to see if it’s raised.
5. Research vacation rentals - Vacation Home Summer Scam
Many vacationers now book stays at private homes instead of hotels, making it easier than ever scammers to target travelers. With a few fake photos and a bogus address, you’ve got yourself a fake vacation rental. In other vacation rental scams, scammers will falsely advertise a rental as a beachfront property, claim that it’s larger or more modern than it is, or promise amenities that are missing when you arrive.
Before booking a vacation rental, read the reviews. If there aren’t any, or they sound fake, you’re likely looking at a scam. Look up the address of the rental to see if it even exists and if the location matches the description listed. You can also ask the owner for more details about the property just to see their reaction; if they sound vague or uneasy, it’s likely a scam. Finally, as mentioned above, use a credit card to pay for the stay so you can dispute the charges if it is a scam.
6. Vet potential contractors - Mr. Fix-It Summer Scam
Contractors who go from door-to-door looking for work are a fairly common summertime sight. Unfortunately, some of these “contractors” are actually scammers looking to con innocent homeowners out of their money. They’ll deliver shoddy work at an inflated price, disappear once a down payment been made, or do more harm than good with their “home improvement” work.
Before hiring a contractor, thoroughly research them, asking for contact info of previous clients, checking out their online presence and looking up the business on the BBB website. It's also a good idea to only work with contractors you've personally sought out. Those that come knocking on your door are likely not the real deal. Finally, if possible, don't agree to pay more than a third of the total cost of a job before work begins. Even then, only pay when you see the materials arrive.
Don’t let summertime turn into scam-time. If you've been hit by a card skimming device or a scammer managed to get your debit card information, Freeze your debit card through Online Banking and contact the credit union as soon as possible. Stay alert, follow the tips outlined above, and stay safe!