Summer scams you need to know about to protect yourself
Now that summer is officially here, it's prime season for con artists, so you can expect scams to abound.
Whereas most people look to take some time off to enjoy the warm season, that's not the case for scammers. Fraudsters are targeting businesses and consumers with tricks to steal money and financial information. Highlighting the BBB Summer Scams Hot List are schemes involving travel, tickets, utilities and storm chasers.
Vacation rentals always top the list, and this year, given the cost of travel and vacations, people need to be extra vigilant. If you are looking to book a vacation house or condo, it is imperative to do research in advance to find legitimate businesses. Scammers will use listings they find on actual websites, passing them off as their own. They are gone after you pay the required deposit, and so is your money.
The hot weather provides excellent opportunities for scams. Con artists, pretending they are the utility company, will call people during the hottest weather and threaten to cut off electricity if they don't pay a fee immediately.
Also, watch out for impostor door-to-door utility workers offering to upgrade, fix or inspect your air conditioner. Never let any stranger into your home unless you contacted the company and scheduled repairs or maintenance.
Summer brings out the storm chasers and other home repair scammers. They often go door-to-door, offering to repair damage resulting from a storm, or they may claim your roof or driveway needs repair. In many cases, these scammers offer you a great deal. After you make the down payment, they could disappear. Or, if they do the work, it can be of poor quality and done with substandard materials.
To avoid becoming a victim, it's best to avoid anyone who knocks on your door with a too-good-to-be-true offer, and always check company backgrounds before hiring or buying. A great way to start your search is by visiting BBB.org for business reviews and ratings and look for the BBB Seal, The Sign of a Better Business.
I would like to bring three other major summer scams to your attention.
Ticket rip-off scams are surging with superstar artists on tour and big events like NASCAR and Lollapalooza coming to town. Many people reported being scammed after the Taylor Swift concert. Sadly, I had a relative who lost money to fraud. Scammers will post available tickets -- that don't exist -- for concerts, sports events and festivals on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
Many tickets are fake; sometimes, scammers will buy a real set of tickets and repeatedly sell them to multiple buyers. In most cases, people don't realize they are victims until they arrive at the gate. I always advise for people to buy tickets from a licensed ticket broker or the venue itself.
Job scams with phony "opportunities" will surface on social media sites, texts, internet searches and emails offering high-paying positions that require little or no experience. Beware because the ads for the jobs are vague.
Often, the interviews are conducted via email and text message. Often, these scams involve phony checks, and handing over all your banking information and social security information because the scheme includes convincing you it's needed for direct deposit and employment forms.
Watch out for a new twist on fake apartment rentals. Scammers use fake tenant credit checks to trick potential renters into compromising sensitive personal information.
Whenever you encounter a situation that does not seem right, I urge you to use these tips to protect yourself.
If you have experienced any type of scam, even if you didn't lose money, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Sign up for BBB's free consumer newsletter at BBB.org/ChicagoBuzz.
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• Steve J. Bernas is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau and can be reached at email@example.com.