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Temperatures are rising, and summer fun is right around the corner. But that’s not the only thing heating up…summertime scams! Scammers know that vacation season places people in unfamiliar locations, has them looking for ways to save money, and more – providing ample opportunities to enrich themselves.

Amid the excitement of your summer plans, don’t forget to stay vigilant about protecting yourself and your finances. Whether you’re globetrotting this summer, coming home from college to work and relax, or planning an epic staycation, here’s a glimpse at some of the more common summertime scams – and ways to keep you and your money safe.

Travel Scams

While travel provides plenty of opportunities for swindlers to target tourists, you’ll be one step ahead. By familiarizing yourself with these common scams and their red flags, you can take control of your safety and ensure a scam-free journey.

Free Vacations

These scams begin with receiving a phone call, email, or text stating that you’ve won a free vacation. If you respond, you’ll quickly discover that “free” isn’t free – you’ll have to pay fees and taxes before claiming your prize. Remember, you can’t win a contest you never entered, and a legitimate company won’t require you to pay hefty fees to claim a free prize.

Rental Scams

Many websites are available to book a rental home for your upcoming vacation. Scammers are criminals of opportunity, so they’ve begun to create listings for places that aren’t available for rent, or they hijack legitimate rentals and list them as their own. The property ends up being double booked, you’re left with no place to stay, and your money is gone. Make sure you only make reservations on reputable websites from verified listers.

Ride-Hailing Cheats

Some taxi drivers will prey on tourists and overcharge travelers who don’t know better. If you plan on taking a taxi during your stay, ask the hotel staff or your rental owner how much a ride should typically cost. Even if you plan to use ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft, there are still safety precautions you need to take. Ensure you’re getting into the right car by matching the make and model, license plate number, driver name, and photo with what is provided within the app. You can also ask the driver to confirm who they are picking up before getting into the car to ensure it’s the right vehicle.

Free “Gifts”

In some places, a local may approach you and place a bracelet, necklace, hat, or other item on you, hand you a flower, or give some other token and claim that it is a gift. Then, once you have it on you or in your hand, they demand money for the item. When you refuse, they start to make a scene. They do this hoping you would rather give them money than be embarrassed by the situation. Don’t take anything from anyone or accept anything for free. Give the item back to them and walk away.

Pickpockets

There are many variations of this crime, but the theme remains the same. Someone approaches you and engages you in conversation; all the while, someone else behind the scenes is picking your pocket and making off with your wallet before you have a chance to realize what’s going on. They may spill something on you, claim you have something on your shoe, tell you that you dropped some money or other item, or use some other distraction tactic. Be aware of anyone getting too close, bumping into you, or approaching you unwarranted. You’re likely better off ignoring anyone who attempts to approach you.

Job Scams

For students returning home for the summer or long-term travelers seeking to immerse themselves in their new locale, seasonal job opportunities can be a great way to supplement your income. But beware of summer job scams and watch out for these common warning signs.

  • Vague job descriptions.
  • Promises of high earnings with little to no experience required.
  • Upfront fees for equipment, software, or training.
  • Guaranteed or immediate hiring with no interview process.
  • They only pay through payment services like CashApp or Venmo.
  • They only communicate through messaging services like WhatsApp.

Tips for Traveling with Cash

No matter where your summer travels take you, avoid handling large amounts of cash. This behavior will attract unwanted attention and could make you a prime target for thieves. Instead, follow these tips to stay safe on your vacation.

Keep Cash Small

Only carry a small amount of money on you at a time and limit it to smaller bills. Keep part of your cash secure, such as your hotel safe.

Locate a Safe ATM

If you need to access an ATM while traveling, try to use one at a reputable financial institution or business rather than a standalone machine. Look for ATMs in a well-lit, high-traffic location so you and bystanders are more likely to notice anything suspicious.

Choose Cards Over Cash

If you don’t specifically need cash for anything during your trip, consider limiting your wallet to just cards. Eliminate the possibility of being seen handling money, and reduce your theft risk.

Stay Safe with Debit & Credit Cards

Relying on debit or credit cards is much safer than carrying cash – especially in unfamiliar places like traveling abroad. However, there are extra precautions you can take to ensure your vacation isn’t ruined if your wallet is lost or stolen.

Minimize Risk

Limit the number of cards you carry at a time. Don’t bring every card in your wallet. Instead, keep one card in your wallet and store the others in a secure place, such as your hotel safe.

Bring Backups

You can also carry a second card in a different location (like a bag or hidden pocket) as an extra precaution in case your wallet is lost or stolen, or if there is a problem with your other card.

Enable Alerts

Set up alerts for your card transactions. If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll be notified of any unauthorized charges, and you can take immediate action to rectify the situation and mitigate potential losses.

Watch Out for Card Skimmers

Carefully inspect ATMs before using them to ensure nothing is out of the ordinary, such as a card skimmer, visible camera, or other suspicious device. If it appears the ATM has been tampered with in any way, like the card reader is misaligned or any parts or components are loose or missing, choose another one in a different location.

We’re Here to Help!

Vacation season is upon us, and we want to ensure you have a fun and memorable experience. With planning and a few precautions, you will enjoy yourself and keep your money safe from summertime scams.

If you plan to travel outside the country this summer, then please let us know beforehand. This step will ensure none of your transactions are blocked due to suspected fraud. If you believe you were a scam victim, we’re here to help. Contact us immediately by visiting any of our branch locations or calling 1-800-531-8456.

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Each individual’s financial situation is unique. We encourage you to contact United Texas Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.

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