Wednesday, May 13, 2015

VACATION- Beware of Vacation Scams

We are rapidly approaching the summer vacation season. Regular readers know to hold their mail and newspapers, and ask a trusted friend or neighbor to watch their house. But here are some things to watch out for in preparation for your vacation and while you are enjoying your vacation.

  • “Free Vacation.” You may receive a notice via postcard, letter or phone message that you have won a “free” vacation to a luxury location. Some of these offers require you to sit through a high pressure sales pitch to join a vacation club. The sales people claim that members receive discounted travel deals. After you have gone through the pitch there are problems in receiving your promised free vacation. In a variation of this scam, a phony travel agency offers the free or discounted trip, but to receive it you need to pay a service charge or pay for a travel club membership. Once you pay with your credit card or by wiring money, the travel agency is long gone with your money and maybe with your credit card account number.
  • Social-Media. Scammers have migrated to social-media sites such as Facebook. The scammer will set up an account then encourage viewers to “like,” “follow” or “comment on” their site. In reality, this is a way to get to you click on a link that installs malware or take you to a web site that collects your Social Security Number, credit card account number or other personal information. Do not click on any of these links.
  • Fake vacation homes. Scammers will frequently advertise vacation homes or resorts on Craigslist. They will have enticing photos and require you to wire a deposit. Take this as a red flag if wiring money is the only way of payment. If you pay, and you arrive at the destination, it turns out that the address isn’t real, the property isn’t owned by the person who took the deposit, or the beautiful resort is rundown or closed. To avoid this trap, Google the address to confirm the property exists or isn’t out of business. If possible, call the hotel or resort’s 800 number to verify your reservation.
While you are on your vacation there are some things to watch out for:

·         Wake-up call. You receive a call in the middle of the night. The caller says that they are from the front desk of your hotel and they want to verify your credit card information. They are counting on you to give the information on reflex since you are groggy. Don’t give it to them! Tell them that you will call them back or go down to the front desk, and then hang up. Call the 800 number on the back of your credit card and check for fraudulent activity. Go down to the front desk and let them know that you have had this call.

·         Fake Wi-Fi. When you travel, it is perfectly natural to look for free Wi-Fi at an airport or at your hotel. Identity thieves however often set up their own fake Wi-Fi network sometimes with the same name as the airport or hotel uses. And, they will make sure that their signal is stronger that the legitimate network. You might be asked for your credit card number to pay a service fee. Most of the time Wi-Fi is a free service to their customers. At hotels, you may be asked for your name and room number, you may be a password when you check in at the front desk.  If the network wants your credit card number, get off of that network!

The Seattle Times:

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