By Michael Osakwe, NextAdvisor.com
Summer is here, which means it's time for barbecues, family vacations and weekend outings. But while you're planning for summer, scammers will be hard at work doing some planning of their own. To avoid taking away from your summer fun, we detailed a handful of scams to look out for as you plan for summer activities.
Fake trip and rental offers
While just about everyone knows about the age-old free cruise or vacation scams, travel scams of today are a bit more sophisticated, as there are new ways to communicate with potential victims. Although phone- and mail-based scams still exist, the Internet has completely changed the game. Using trustworthy sites like Facebook and Twitter, scammers can offer all sorts of travel deals and vacation getaways "endorsed" by friends. Similarly, savvy Internet users might browse Craigslist and other community sites for deals on vacation rentals and summer sublets (thinking they know what scams look like), only to end up being tricked. The problem isn't that these sites lack legitimate deals, but it's getting increasingly difficult to tell real offers from fake ones -- something that's also a problem with long-term apartment or home rentals.
To avoid such scams, you'll want to make sure you're using a reputable travel site or booking through a legitimate travel agent or rewards program, like ones offered through travel rewards credit cards. While these legitimate booking options may be a little more expensive, you can at least rest easy knowing that they're legitimate bookings. If you opt to look for travel options on Craigslist or another community site, you'll want to look for a couple of things before you book.
First, Google the address and make sure the image of the house or vacation property matches the street view (assuming there is one). You can also try using Google's reverse image search function to see if the photos used for the listing show up anywhere else online (scammers often count on people Googling the address, but not the photos themselves). Get a step-by-step guide to reverse image searching in this post. Next, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it likely is, and finally, always pay for travel plans with a credit card. Not only does this form of payment offer you more protection against fraud, but it also allows you to easily track the purchase, as opposed to paying in cash or with prepaid gift cards -- request for such payment is usually a tell-tale sign you're usually dealing with a scammer.
Credit card fraud
We've talked before about the importance of keeping your identity safe during holidays and travel, but you should also be on the lookout over the summer months, as credit card theft is common during the summer since a lot of people travel. Last year, fraudsters pretending to be hotel staff and restaurant delivery services duped cardholders into sharing personal information over the phone, as warned of by the BBB. To avoid falling for such fraud, you'll want to be highly aware of when and where you use your card as well as take other precautions, such as remaining skeptical of anyone who asks for your personal or financial information over the phone and making sure any website you're booking through uses HTTPS encryption. In addition, alert your bank of your travel plans before you go so they'll know when you will and will not be out of town, which can help them spot fraudulent charges. It's also wise to steer clear of public Wi-Fi while you're on your trip, including while you're in the air, as it's not the most secure way to stay connected.
Local event scams
Even if you decide to stay local this summer, you'll find that scammers will still have you in their sights. While summertime usually brings a lot of smaller community events like fairs and festivals throughout the country, scammers attempt take advantage of this time of the year by posting fake but enticing outings. Much like travel deals, you'll find that these scams run rampant online through social media sites and even reputable discount platforms like Groupon. The best way to protect yourself from local event scams is to do a little research before you purchase tickets for an event -- a quick Google search should provide more than one website, such as the city's website, citing the event. When you decide to purchase tickets to an event (assuming you already did your homework), you'll want to confirm the site URL starts with HTTPS, as it ensures the site is secure, and pay with a credit card since it offers more fraud protection, as detailed above. If you can't confirm the legitimacy of an event, you may want to opt to pay in cash at the door (even if it's more expensive). While this may end up costing you a little more money, it's better than losing money to a scammer by paying online for a fake event.
Worried that you'll fall for a scam during the summer or any other time of the year? Follow our identity theft blog to learn how to protect yourself from everyday scams.
This blog post originally appeared on NextAdvisor.com.
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