Home > Identity Theft > 9 Summer Scams & How You Can Avoid Them

Comments 0 Comments

Summer is a time for sun, fun, exploration and relaxation. Unfortunately, as we unwind there are those who gear up to take advantage of our moments of diversion and distraction. Scammers love summer, too.

Here are a few summer scams that can turn a much-needed break from work into a break-the-bank moment or make for a truly unhappy holiday, and some simple tips to avoid getting got.

1. The Front Desk Scam

You arrive late at your hotel and all you want to do is check in, take a shower and go to bed. As you settle in, or just after you turn in, the phone in your room rings. The “front desk” is calling to tell you that your payment card was declined. Would you be so kind as to confirm your account number, or provide another card? You oblige then promptly forget all about it….that is until your monthly statement arrives (or whenever you check your account) and you get a rude awakening – the “front desk” wasn’t associated with the hotel at all and was really a scammer.

TIP: If you get a call from the front desk, hang up and call them back or go down to confirm your payment method in person.

2. The Hotel Take-Out Scam

Room service is closed, and you’re starving. There’s a restaurant flyer either on or near the door to your room—it could be for a diner, pizza joint or Chinese restaurant. It doesn’t matter. You order and give them a credit card number. You wait with eager anticipation for your food but nothing arrives. When you call again, there’s no answer because the person who took your order and asked for your credit card is busy maxing it out.

TIP: Call the front desk to make sure the flyer is not a scam, or go online to check for reviews.

3. The Summer Rental Scam

You find the perfect late-summer rental. Excited, or maybe a little anxious about losing out on this gem, you contact the person identified in the listing and—score—you get the place. On the appointed day, you show up at the right address, at the right time with bags in hand. You ring the bell and the door opens. The person standing in the doorway looks at you in wonderment as you happily announce that you have arrived. It might be the owner or maybe a tenant. Equally disturbing, you discover an office building, a parking lot or vacant field at the address you were given. Oh, and did I mention that the scammer and your money are long gone?

TIP: If you used a real estate agent, ask for the agent’s license number and check it, request references if there are no reviews online and confirm that the address is real and the premises are truly available for rent. Some home-rental websites have their own vetting processes and offer guarantees that will protect you in case of fraud. Be sure to read through the details, however.

4. The Wi-Fi Scam

Many destinations, travel stops, restaurants, retailers and public venues provide free Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, free Wi-Fi by no means guarantees secure Wi-Fi. Before you connect to anything that is free, confirm the exact name of the Wi-Fi network and that it is secure. Always be on the lookout for fake networks created by scammers.

TIP: Always check with the network provider or someone of authority at the venue before logging on to any new wireless connection.

5. The Summer Job Scam

You apply for a summer job and your prospective employer informs you that you’re hired, but before they can make a formal offer they have to do a background check. Sounds logical, right? So, you provide your information—including your Social Security number—but never hear back about the job. The reason: You were the job and your identity has been stolen.

TIP: Due diligence here is key: Never provide sensitive personal information to a job site or anyone claiming to offer a job as a prerequisite to starting the conversation. Always make a few calls or poke around online to make sure the company and the offer are legitimate. Then interact with an authorized representative. If at that point you want to move forward, it is appropriate to supply identifying data.

6. The Excursion Scam

When booking an excursion, double check that the company you’re working with has a good reputation. Call and make sure the number matches contact information online, and that there are reviews from happy customers. Otherwise, you could be just giving a stranger your credit card information and the ability to take you for a ride.

TIP: Read reviews, and make sure the company is legitimate.

7. The Mover Scam

Summer is the time to move. Your search for a mover yields a company that can do it fast, at what appears to be a reasonable price: but compared to what? Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure that you are getting a deal rather than being the deal. Many of these sketchy movers will force you to ransom back your belongings.

TIP: Always read the reviews before hiring a mover.

8. The Concert Ticket Scam

Taylor Swift is rolling into town with her celebrated “1989” tour. You just have to have tickets. Are you sure you’re on a legitimate ticket site? You don’t want to find out the hard way.

TIP: Go to reputable ticket sellers (also check with the concert venues) to make absolutely sure you are dealing with someone who can and will actually deliver the goods to you rather than sell you a bill of goods.

9. The Home Maintenance Scam

Everyone has a punch list of home repairs that needs to get done before winter rolls around.

A guy shows up at your door, and tells you that his crew is working in the area and about to finish a job with some materials to spare. He offers to give you a deal because it will save him time and you money. No contract, no fuss; you agree to hire him and pay a deposit. Then he and his imaginary crew—along with your dough—are gone with the wind.

TIP: Check out potential hires through friends, neighbors and online reviews. Also, get a written contract which specifies deliverables, including a definitive start and completion date. Note that many states require home improvement contractors to be licensed and provide written contracts.

Keeping Your Summer Scam-Free

There’s also a cheat sheet on the best practices that can help you keep your summer safe from fraud, courtesy of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau:

  • Don’t wire money to strangers – When booking a vacation or renting a property, avoid anyone who only accepts payment by wire transfer.  Use a secure method of payment such as a credit or online payment system.
  • Be skeptical about giving out your information – That includes your credit card number. Ignore food flyers under your hotel room door and remember that the front desk at the hotel will never call to ask you for your credit card number over the phone.
  • Is the vacation really free? – It may appear to be, but like anything else, a free vacation is not free if you have to give out your credit card number.
  • Call your financial institutions before leaving town – It may not be enough just to call your credit card company to tell them you are leaving town.  Call your bank as well, since your bank generally sets the level of security associated with your credit card.  If you don’t do this, your credit card transactions will probably be declined, especially if your purchases don’t match your usual spending pattern, for example, using your card in another state or country.
  • Carefully check your receipts and statements – As soon as you get home, reconcile your credit card and banking statements with your receipts.  Extra charges are not necessarily fraudulent. Mistakes do happen, and regardless of whether a charge is an error or unauthorized, you should report the problem as soon as possible.

We also want to add to this: Just because you’re on vacation, don’t go on hiatus from checking your credit reports and credit scores. If someone fraudulently opens an account in your name, you may not know about it until it has done a serious number on your credit. Better to catch it as soon as possible so you can deal with it before it becomes a big problem. You can get your credit reports for free every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can get your credit scores for free from many sources, including through Credit.com, which updates your scores every 30 days. A larger, unexpected change in your credit scores can tip you off to potential fraud.

More on Identity Theft:

Image: BananaStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team