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Just because it's summer doesn't mean scammers are taking a break. In fact, there are several cons that surface during the warmer months. Here are five scams that are common in the summer and steps you can take to avoid them.
Disaster-relief scams. If the hurricane that's headed toward the North Carolina coast -- Hurricane Arthur -- does hit land and cause destruction, there's a good chance con artists will use it as an opportunity to take advantage of people. A variety of scams pop up after most major disasters, says Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911 and Credit.com. For example, after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, fraudulent charities and relief efforts surfaced along with several other cons aimed at taking advantage of disaster victims. If this summer's storm season does result in disasters, don't give to charities that spring up to deal with them. Instead, check CharityNavigator.org for a list of legitimate organizations that have experience providing disaster relief.
Travel scams. There are several travel-related scams, but two of the most common are free cruise and vacation rental scams, says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center. Victims of the cruise scam typically are contacted by phone, e-mail or text message and offered a free cruise that actually isn't free. People have to pay a variety of fees to book the cruise and, in the process, have to give up a lot of personal information -- which is then sold, Velasquez says. If you want to take a cruise, skip the free offers and, instead, follow these five steps to get a cruise deal.
With rental scams, con artists list properties that they don't own on Craigslist or other sites that don't vet posts. Then they take people's money and leave them without a place to stay, Velasquez says. If the person listing a vacation rental will only communicate by e-mail, won't show you the property in advance or asks you to wire money, she says it's likely a scam. For tips on renting an apartment, condo or house when you travel, see How to Save Money on Vacation Rental Properties. For more information on avoiding travel scams, see How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off While Traveling.
Home-repair scams. When the weather gets warm, homeowners are more likely to get a knock on the door from someone offering to do repair work at a low price. Usually, they'll claim that they've done paving or roofing for someone else in the neighborhood and have extra materials they're willing to unload for cheap, Velasquez says. These traveling repairmen typically aren't licensed and do shoddy work, she says. So when it comes to home improvement, you should always pick the contractor -- don't let them pick you. For more information, see Home Remodeling Done Right.
Ticket scams. Scammers know how pricey tickets to concerts, sporting events and festivals can be, so they try to take advantage of people looking for deals. In particular, they often offer reasonably priced tickets to sold-out events, Velasquez says. They'll take your cash and leave you empty-handed. To avoid paying for tickets that don't exist, Levin of Identity Theft 911 says that you always should purchase tickets through the venue or Web site sanctioned to sell tickets -- not through an unknown third party. For tips on seeing performances and events at discounted prices, check out How to Save Money on Concerts, Sports and More.
Job scams. Scams targeting job hunters pop up in the summer when many high school and college students are looking for temporary work. Many revolve around work-at-home gigs that are advertised on signs along the side of the road, in community papers, on Craigslist and on free online job-listing sites. Often the people or companies offering these opportunities will ask job seekers for a lot of personal information, including Social Security numbers, when they apply, Levin says. Although employers do need this sort of information from new employees, they don't need it during the application process. Too often people are so eager to put themselves in the right light with a prospective employer that they walk right into a trap by providing information that can be used to steal their identities, Levin says. To guard against job scams, do a search online using the company name or phone number and the word "scam" or "complaint." Also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the company. For legitimate work-at-home positions, consider these ten options.
Copyright 2014 The Kiplinger Washington Editors