Nashville, TN – With Memorial Day (May 28th) kicking off the unofficial start of summer vacation season, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs urges consumers to be on the lookout for scammers and identity thieves who target summer travelers.
“Summer travel is a great opportunity to make fun memories with family and friends,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Unfortunately, deceptive tactics like bogus vacation rentals and gas station credit card skimmers can quickly put a damper on a good time. By remembering a few basic scam-prevention guidelines, Tennessee consumers can help protect their money and personal information while out and about this summer.”
TDCI offers the following tips and information to help Tennesseans avoid common scams and guard their identity while traveling.
Card Skimmers/Shimmers: Gas stations are a popular spot for scammers to place card skimmers and shimmers to glean your credit/debit card’s information. Skimmers are found on the outside of the card reader and target the magnetic strip. Shimmers are found inside the card reader and target the chip in chip cards. It’s important to check for skimmers before inserting credit or debit cards.
Because shimmers are so small and placed inside the card reader, they’re nearly undetectable.
- If there is a skimmer in place, a wiggle of the card reader should dislodge the skimmer.
- If a skimmer is found or you suspect that a skimmer is in place, notify the cashier, or operating company if it’s an ATM, and report it to the local police.
- Regularly check bank statements and online accounts for fraudulent charges and report those to your bank or credit card company.
- Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. This is part of a voluntary program by the industry to thwart gas pump tampering. If the pump panel is opened, the label will read “void,” which means the machine has been tampered with.
Do your research before handing over money for travel planning/booking services.
Warning signs that you’re dealing with an illegitimate travel agent include being asked to pay for the trip without a contract, transactions only being carried out over the phone, and the failure to disclose travel details, like the name of the hotel or airline, in writing.
- Research the company or agent you’re looking to use. Make sure their reviews are positive and you’re comfortable that they are a trusted entity.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau for business ratings and reviews.
- Get the full itinerary and details of the trip, as well as cancellation policies, before paying and booking a trip.
- Read the fine print before signing any contracts.
- Double check with hotels and airlines that everything is booked with correct dates.
Free or Deeply Discounted Travel
If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. These scams are commonly found on social media with friends sharing posts for a chance to win free flights or trips. Consumers may also get telephone calls or emails claiming that they’ve won a free trip.
- Be cautious of offers that seem unrealistically low. Out-of-the-blue or advertised offers to pay $400 for a trip valued at $4,000 may be a scam.
- Before sharing a post on social media about a giveaway, check the account page. If it’s claiming to be a well-known company but the page was only recently created and only has one or two posts, the page and giveaway are likely a scam.
- If you’re contacted on social media, by phone, or by email with free travel offers but you need to pay a fee or hand over personal or account information, it is a scam. Don’t respond, click links, or hand over any information or money.
- If you’ve been contacted with an offer like this, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- If you realize that a giveaway is being hosted by a fake account, report the page to the social media site.
Some vacation rentals may come with a price that’s too good to be true. Scammers can pull pictures from other sites, misleading consumers about where they will be staying. A listing may advertise that the room has ocean views with photos that look to be on the beach, but you may end up with a condo that’s actually three blocks from the beach.
- Check reviews from previous stays to see what other travelers had to say.
- Check the address to verify where the rental is located and that it matches up with what they’re advertising.
- If details about the rental are vague and the property owner is hesitant or refuses to provide more information, consider looking for other options.
- When considering which payment method to use, keep in mind that credit card companies provide more fraud protection than any other payment method.
- If you think a rental is being listed as part of a scam, report the listing to the vacation rental website.
- If you fall victim to a vacation rental scam, report it to your bank or credit card company immediately and notify the vacation rental website.
For more consumer tips that help ensure your family has a scam-free summer, visit http://tn.gov/consumer