Better Business Bureau: Scams heat up in second half of summer
The second half of summer brings many opportunities for travel, recreation, entertainment and home improvement. For customers, that means fun.
For businesses, that means customers. With inflation rates and prices soaring, people are seeking any kind of discount to ease the costs.
Scammers are out in full force to capitalize on this energized and expensive marketplace. Con artists have a bag of summer tricks to steal money and identity. They have no regard for legitimate business. In fact, their business is to profit, often at the expense of good companies.
So preparing to fend off these crooks is essential. Knowledge and advance planning will help thwart fraudsters' efforts and reduce your monetary risk. I want to spotlight a few popular scams of particular interest so far this summer.
Scammers offering free gasoline gift cards or other expensive items such as travel or high-demand products as rewards for finishing online surveys have been far more common this year. A lot of your information can be stolen quickly. Also, remember anyone asking you to pay any expense with gift cards is a scammer. That is the tipoff to the ripoff.
Skyrocketing travel and hotel prices and vacation rentals remain a big problem. Scammers create fake websites and copy and paste fabulous pictures to entice you to book with them. Once you pay the deposit, they take off, and your money is gone. Booking a condo or vacation house requires advance research to ensure the property is real and you are dealing with a trustworthy company.
For business owners, advise your employees to always be on the lookout for strange phone calls, counterfeit websites, fake social media ads, phishing emails and even in-person impostors. Emphasize the importance of not opening attachments from unknown people as well as not clicking on links within an email or text at work. In the long run, your team's extra vigilance to avoid schemes will pay you back many times.
Does your business or home have a sticker in the window or on the door announcing it is protected by XXX security? If someone knocks on your door and claims to be from that security firm, check with the company first to ensure they are legit. A security firm impostor might allege a vital electronic or mechanical update needs to be installed immediately to gain access to your building.
Utility scams, aimed at both businesses and residents, typically escalate with summer's excessive heat. Con artists capitalize on the need for air conditioning and electric power and threaten people with an immediate shut down unless they wire money for their "overdue bill" immediately. Watch out for impostor door-to-door utility workers and bogus electric company phone calls and emails.
Like the early Spring, the second half of summer can be prime time for Storm Chasers. After a major storm, fraudsters will appear in the neighborhood to offer quick repair of wind and hail damage, flooded basements, downed trees, etc. Immediate repair is needed, but don't let any con artist take you for a ride. You could wind up with substandard repair and materials.
Phony tickets for concerts, festivals, or sports are also a common and continuing problem this time of year. Scammers will post available tickets -- that don't exist -- for the most popular concerts, games, and summer festivals on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other free sites. It's best to purchase tickets in-person at the venue or on the official website. Never wire money or send cash for tickets. Be careful of ticket printouts, as scammers will often sell the same printout to multiple individuals.
We always recommend people take the extra time to check out companies before you buy. Find businesses you can trust by going to BBB.ORG for reviews and grades. Scammers will work very hard to outfox you this summer, but these tips will help reduce your risk. If you experienced any scam, even if you didn't lose money, we ask that you report it to BBB Scam Tracker.
• Steve J. Bernas is President and CEO of the BBB of Chicago & Northern Illinois. He can be reached at email@example.com