Financial Resource Center


Summer Scams: Travel, But Avoid the Cons

by Center for Personal Finance editors / July 1st, 2013

MADISON, Wis. (7/2/13)--For scammers, the summer vacation season is the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, you are the game ball these crooks hope to catch in their quick-money schemes.

One emerging fraud is an update of the "grandparent scam" for the Internet age. One-third of consumers ages 18-49 share their vacation plans on social media. Criminals who see this information can contact family members, typically the elderly, requesting a money transfer to solve an "emergency situation" involving the vacationers (Orlando Sentinel June 22).
Last year victims attempted to send $20.5 million through MoneyGram, a popular money-transfer company, to con artists using the grandparent scam. To avoid a similar fate, don't post your vacation plans on Facebook or Twitter. If you receive a panicked phone call from a purported relative, before sending money call the relative who supposedly is in trouble.

Here are some other popular summer scams and what you can do to avoid them, according to Time magazine (June 22).
  • Fake front desk call. In Jekyll Island, Ga., this scam has gotten so bad that hotels are putting up signs warning guests. A scammer impersonating a front-desk clerk will call in the middle of the night claiming a computer glitch requires verification of your credit card information. To avoid this one, simply don't give out your credit card information over the phone.
  • Fake Wi-Fi. When travelling you never can be certain the free hotel or Starbucks Wi-Fi you're using is legitimate. Crooks can use portable devices to create fake Wi-Fi hotspots that look authentic. When you use these "evil twin" hotspots, all of your Internet activity is viewable. To be safe, use your mobile device's data plan or, if you do use Wi-Fi, assume your activity is being monitored and don't check any sites that would reveal personal information.
  • Disappearing MoneyPak deposit. The Better Business Bureau recently cautioned consumers about using Green Dot's MoneyPak cards, popular prepaid debit cards available at major retailers. Scammers are pushing consumers to purchase a MoneyPak card, which doesn't offer the same protections as a credit card, and hand over the 14-digit security code to pay for limited-time-only deals, including discount airfare. Be wary of any deal too good to be true, especially one that requires such a specific form of payment.
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