Don't let scams ruin your summer
By Kelly Trevino
July 16, 2017 at 9:44 p.m.
Updated July 17, 2017 at 1 a.m.
Summer is a great time to take that long-overdue vacation or take a part-time job. Unfortunately, as the weather heats up in Texas, so do scams.
Last summer, Texans reported more than 800 scams and more than $190,000 in losses to BBB Scam Tracker. Nationwide, more than 8,000 scams were reported with more than $12 million in losses. Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about some of the top summer scams:
- Don't let a scam ruin your vacation. Scammers are known for advertising too-good-to-be-true deals in the hopes of getting your money in return. In a scam known as a "bait-and-switch," the scammer shows appealing photos of a home or condo (some real, some fake) that isn't actually available and, at the last minute, changes the location to a less appealing rental. The phony landlord then collects an upfront deposit, leaving the vacationer to find out they've been scammed when they show up to the address. Whether it's a fake timeshare rental or a falsely promised Disney vacation, don't let a vacation scam take you for a ride.
Make sure the offer is legitimate by checking bbb.org first. If there is no BBB Business Profile on the company, dig deeper. Google the phone number or website to see if others report problems. Beware of red flags, such as a listing at a suspiciously low price or a landlord who communicates only via email and/or asks for a wire transfer.
- Keep your belongings safe during your move. Summer is the peak time of year for changing residencies, and unlicensed movers are waiting to take advantage of the busy season. In Texas, professional movers are required to be licensed by the state. Always research the company first and check out the mover's BBB Business Profile at bbb.org. Not all price quotes online or over the phone are legitimate (or binding), so be sure to get everything in writing and read carefully before signing a contract. Beware of cheap online offers that sound too good to be true. Also, remember that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic lowball offer that may cost you more in the end. For a list of BBB Accredited movers, go to bbb.org.
- Beware of summer concert ticket scams. Before paying for concert tickets online, make sure the seller is reputable. In some instances, phony sellers will trick people into wiring money with no intention of sending real tickets. Most concert venues now allow ticket holders to print tickets from personal computers; however, this also gives scammers the opportunity to sell the same ticket over and over to unsuspecting consumers. Be wary of sellers who play on your emotions and offer a sad tale as to why they can't use the tickets. Also, watch out for red flags, such as a seller who pressures you to act quickly or asks you to wire the money.
- Be wary of high-pressure door-to-door sales tactics. During the summer months, door-to-door selling activity increases because many residents are home during the day to answer the door. Many legitimate companies use the door-to-door sales method, and various city ordinances regulate solicitors to protect residents from unscrupulous individuals. However, residents need to watch for individuals who try to work their way around the system to line their pockets.
Under Texas law, a door-to-door seller must advise you verbally and in writing that you have a right to cancel a sale within three days.
The sales representative must also give you a contract or receipt stating the date of the sale, the name and address of the merchant and a statement of your right to cancel the contract, which includes the address where you send your cancellation notice.
Many door-to-door sales representatives offer deals on everything from air conditioning unit repair to installing home security systems. Before saying yes, get all promises in writing, including start and finish dates.
Resist pressure to "buy now," and don't be pressured to take advantage of a time-sensitive offer, like "once in a lifetime" or "today only." Instead, do some comparison shopping and take time to decide whether you want the product being sold.
- Beware of job scams that can turn a hot summer cold. Finding summer employment is a top priority for many college and high school students. Unfortunately, scammers know this and advertise jobs where legitimate employers do: online, in a newspaper ad or via email. They will claim they can guarantee job placement after you pay upfront fees; however, the promised job never materializes, and the company does not return your calls.
Always be wary of employers who require fees for training and background checks or who tout "no experience needed."
If you receive an unsolicited email or text message advertising an open position, don't click on any links until you've verified the business and can confirm the email came from a legitimate source.
Also, job seekers should be cautious of any posting advertising extremely high pay for short hours or minimal required experience.
Remember, legitimate businesses don't make promises or guarantees about jobs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Kelly Trevino is the regional director for the Corpus Christi office of Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin. You can reach her at 361-945-7352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.