Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

Summertime — and the scamming is easy

July 26, 2019

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Identity theft is a growing problem for parents looking to protect their children. Here’s how you can cover this important topic. (Photo via Pexels)

Consumer scams are on the rise. In 2018, consumer scams surged 38% over the previous year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).Consumers shelled out $1.48 billion to fraudsters, with nearly half, or 535,417, complaints reported about fraudsters claiming to represent the Social Security Administration (SSA) or Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

But scams are especially prevalent during the summer as schedules ease up and consumers shift their attention to vacation plans. Thieves are finding increasingly devious ways to steal money during the summer, from offering phony airline tickets and vacation rentals to home improvement services and moving companies to claiming to be a family member or friend on vacation desperately needing money.

Here are three “don’t” for business reporters to develop that can help their readers protect themselves from scammers this summer:

Don’t fly away with my money!

Invite readers to participate in a video interview on your news organization’s website. Develop your questions after doing some research on tips offered by the Better Business Bureau and others. Include both those who have been burned by fraudsters, and those interested in learning a few tips to scam-proof their vacations this summer. 

This May 2019 blog from the FTC, “Make It a Scam-Free Vacation,” offers consumers a checklist of good advice.How many of your readers took the time to check out the owner or business offering a vacation rental, or the rental address? Did they buy their airline ticket from a phony site, or a free online classified site like Craigslist? If a reader has been scammed, they should report their experience to the FTCand also to their state attorney general.

Don’t open your home to thieves!

Phony home improvement services and thieves posing as movers can create a load of problems for unsuspecting consumers. When an unsolicited contractor offering services knocks on the door, consumer should take the time to check out them out with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and verify licensing and registration with your state.

For an interstate move, protect yourself by hiring a mover on the ProMovers list on the American Moving & Storage Association. Also check their number with the Department of Transportation and their carrier number with the Federal Motor Safety Administration. Intrastate, check with the BBB and your state’s moving association.

Yes, the process takes some work, but if you hand over your money to a home improvement service that disappears, or to a fake mover who then jacks up the price, there’s very little the police can do at that point.

Don’t announce your vacation plans on social media!

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. But announcing your vacation plans opens the door to burglary or worse in your absence, warns the site NextAdvisor. Broadcasting photos on every stop of your trip gives thieves the opportunity to hack your personal information and send emails to family and friends asking for money.  

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