If you own a phone, there’s a good chance you have to put up with the annoyance of unwanted callers. But it’s not just telemarketers interrupting your dinner or survey takers wanting to know your opinion on political topics anymore. The real danger of unwanted calls is in phone scams.

An estimated 89% of phone owners in the US receive unwanted calls each month, and the increasing problem of phone scams is only getting worse. According to one source, 11% of phone owners have fallen victim to a phone scam, and of those victims, 20% have lost as much as $10,000 as a result; 14% of the people surveyed receive more than thirty calls in a single month period.

So what do you need to know to be able to rely on your phone for communication and emergency access, but still avoid the threat? Here are a few helpful tips that will hopefully lower your chances of becoming a victim of fraud:

  1. Guard your info – Scammers operate off of different sources for your phone number. They may be Robocalling you, which means a computer is doing all the dialing, or they may have purchased lists of phone numbers from sources who got them either legally or illegally. Finally, they may simply be punching numbers at random, hoping to land on someone who will fall for their scheme. But think about this: if someone was legitimately calling you with an offer or with a warning about your account, wouldn’t they have your information already? Of course they would, so there’s no need to supply them with your personal data, especially things like your Social Security number, your birthdate, or your account number and password. Even if they tell you to verify your account information, don’t do it. After all, they called you. They should know who you are. Never give out your information to anyone who calls you. Even if they indicate there’s a problem with your account, hang up and call the company directly using a number you can verify—not the number the caller gives you, as this could lead right back to the scammers.
  1. Too good to be true, too scary to be real – One of the most common phone scams right now (33% of reported calls) involve people posing as IRS agents, claiming that criminal charges are being filed against you for failure to pay your taxes. The second most common phone scam right now is threats from credit card companies or loan companies, claiming you’re behind in your payments (31% of calls). That’s pretty scary stuff. However, the IRS doesn’t call people, it sends a mailed letter with instructions on what to do next; your credit card company will never call you and demand payment over the phone, although depending on the company you might receive a phone call simply informing you that need to address some concern with your account. At the same time, 27% of the reported phone scams involved lottery winnings or some form of sweepstakes winnings. Think about this: how many times have you seen news reports of a major lottery like the Powerball, stating that a winning ticket was sold but the winner has yet to come forward? It happens somewhat frequently. That’s because no one calls the winning ticket holder to inform him that he’s won. If you receive a phone call for a lottery or contest—especially one that you don’t remember entering—hang up…it’s a scam.
  1. Let it ring – With the increase in cell phone ownership and the numbers of people who rely on a cell phone instead of a primary house phone, avoiding a scam is easier than ever. Why? Because there’s no need to answer the phone! If you don’t recognize the number or if the caller ID indicates it’s from a city and state you’re not connected to, simply ignore it. Anyone who actually needs to get in touch with you will leave a voicemail, and if it’s your cell phone, the caller can opt to text you instead.

Just remember one crucial warning: even a text message isn’t necessarily safe. It’s an easy way to spread scams because it can be typed once and delivered to thousands of people instantly. It’s also an easy way to install a virus on your phone, so never click a link in a text message that you were not expecting.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Just about every corner of the internet is filled with scams and fraud attempts, waiting to prey on gullible users. Fortunately, with better awareness and education, more and more people are able to spot these crimes and take action to avoid becoming a victim.

In this instance, one quick-thinking postal employee helped prevent a customer from falling victim to an electronics scam, despite his assurances that everything was legitimate and that his newfound work from home job was genuine. When a customer came into a Fresno, California, post office to mail several packages to international addresses, the employee became curious. She questioned the customer about what the packages contained, and why he was mailing them to those addresses. Fortunately for the customer, he was happy to explain about his new job opportunity rather than feeling put out by the slight intrusion.

That’s when the employee informed him that this was a scam. He told her no, that the company who’d hired him had already sent him a check to purchase the iPads and cover the shipping, along with a remaining amount as his payment. A quick call to his bank, though, confirmed the employee’s suspicions: the check he’d received was no good and his bank balance had not gone up.

Had the employee not been aware of the scam—or worse, had she not cared enough to ask why the individual was mailing iPads overseas—the victim of the scam would have lost out in a big way. Not only would he have bought high-dollar electronics and paid a lot of money to ship them to the thieves, he could then have faced additional overdrawn charges on his bank account. That could also have meant that any checks that bounced went unpaid, possibly resulting in late fees from the intended recipients.

In this instance, there was a happy ending (the victim could return the iPads for a refund), but for too many victims of this type of scam, the end result is far more upsetting. Apart from the lost funds and the feelings of being cheated, in some cases the victims actually continue the scam in the hopes that this will still turn out to be a legitimate job, since they can’t bring themselves to admit they were victimized. In extreme cases of scams like this one, victims have even been roped into receiving stolen goods, which can result in criminal charges for the victim.

It’s absolutely crucial that the public stays informed about scams and fraud, but also to keep in mind one universal adage: there is no such thing as free money. No one will pay you a legitimate income to do a task that can be done with little or no effort, and no one will hire you to do a job that requires almost nothing on your part. If anyone reaches out to you online for employment and cannot provide you with things like a physical address and documentation to report this “amazing” income to the IRS, then it is not a legitimate job offer. Walk away, before you become a victim.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Scammers love to go after senior citizens, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources available to help stop the spread of scams, and to help empower individuals to fight back without becoming a victim.

recent senior citizens’ symposium is just one example of the kinds of education and awareness that groups like the Federal Trade Commission and AARP are promoting. By combining forces to cover a wide variety of topics, the agencies are working to ensure that senior citizens are aware of the threat and know when to step away from a fraud attempt.

One very important aspect to the recent training was identifying the three major categories of scams. While these three types can impact anyone, they are especially important when talking about elderscam.

Fear – It’s sad to know that there are scams that play off of the victim’s fears, but that’s a very common tactic used to steal from seniors. Some very common fear-based scams include:

  • Threats from phony IRS agents who inform the victim he owes taxes or penalties
  • People who pretend to be kidnappers who’ve taken the victim’s grandchild
  • A person reportedly calling from the utility company, threatening to turn off the victim’s electricity for non-payment
  • A fake call from a bank or financial institution that states the victim has bounced checks and is facing prosecution

Sympathy – Many senior citizens live in less-than-lavish financial circumstances. Through careful savings and planning for retirement, a comfortable standard of living is the ideal. But too many individuals who worked hard to squirrel away money for their retirement are able to sympathize with those who are less fortunate, possibly because they themselves understand the rigid constraints of a fixed-income. For this reason, scammers target the elderly relentlessly with things like:

  • Fake charities or aide collections following a large-scale disaster
  • Requests for money to save a child’s life
  • Emails that claim the individual is stranded in a foreign country and needs money to get home
  • Lonely individuals claiming a desire for a romantic relationship

Greed – Like it or not, greed is a very real human response, and scammers are all too happy to feed that greed with phony offers at making free money. Even some people who should be trustworthy—like church officials or financial advisors—can end up being part of the problem and bilking seniors out of their money. Some common greed-based scams include:

  • Pyramid schemes that promise “easy money” after you submit your payment
  • Work-from-home jobs that don’t require you to actually do anything
  • Selling bogus memberships or financial planning programs that don’t offer any return
  • Emails from people who claim they have millions to share and just need your help processing the funds
  • Reshipping scams, in which the victim is unwittingly trafficking stolen goods

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Internet scams are a horrible fact of life online, and the damage they do can have lasting effects for the victims. Unfortunately, the nature of internet crimes means that law enforcement can face serious obstacles when it comes to investigating and prosecuting internet scammers, many of whom can be operating from foreign locations literally anywhere in the world.

But for at least a few victims, justice has finally been served. Police have successfully arrested a man whose online “rap sheet” puts him as a dating scammer, check thief, and fake concert promoter. In a twisted geographic tale, the native of Ghana came to the US and lived in Maryland, then was arrested in New York but his activity affected victims in Pennsylvania, resulting in the prosecution in Pennsylvania courts.

Sigismond Segbefia was charged with multiple crimes that included bilking women out of money by pretending to be a deployed US serviceman, posing as an Australia businessman, and making a deal with a company by pretending to be a concert promoter. On that larger scale, Segbefia scammed a South Korean company when he took money to put on a concert by musical star Pharrell Williams for them.

As if his crimes weren’t horrible enough, one of the thief’s methods of meeting women online for the purpose of scamming them was to impersonate a US serviceman, whose picture he found on the internet. Segbefia assumed that individual’s identity and gained his victims’ trust, then claimed that his accounts had been frozen while he was deployed in order to entice the women to send him money. He was also originally charged with stealing a check for $23,000, altering it, then cashing it.

In all, Segbefia is believed to have scammed about $1.2 million from his victims, many of whom he met on dating websites like ChristianMingle and Match.com. After his two-year jail sentence, handed down by a judge this past week, he will be required to pay $1 million restitution to his victims and then willingly be deported.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Only a short time ago, admitting that you met someone online was sure to raise a few eyebrows, but with the increase in reputable dating websites and apps, there’s been a shift in what’s considered normal dating behavior. Unfortunately, the very same popularity and acceptance of online dating has made the whole concept rife with scammers and fraud attempts; and with the growing sophistication of software that lets “bots” do the dirty work, it can be hard to tell the difference between a genuine romance-seeker and a scammer.

One company, Scamalytics, is turning the tables on scammers by using the very same algorithms that help find a closely compatible match between two would-be daters. With hundreds of different variables that help bring people together, the company can use similar characteristics and variables to catch scammers in the act.

While Scamalytics is a service that the dating website would contract—as opposed to something that individual users would sign up for—there are a few key indicators that can help you weed out the scams in order to have a safe and successful online dating experience.

Know the purpose of the site you’re on

There is literally something for everybody when it comes to online dating websites. You can choose your site based on occupation, religious affiliation, even the age demographic or geographic location of the person you want to meet. At the same time, the website you choose will have different goals for its members; some sites are dedicated to helping people forge lasting relationships, while others are for the so-called “casual hookup.”

Avoid the “sexy” stranger

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship or just a one-time, weekend interaction, it might be best to steer clear of any profiles or message offers from people sending out unsolicited compromising photos of themselves. These accounts are quite likely to get your attention, all right, but it’s a common trick of the trade for scammers.

Watch the grammar

The bad grammar on scam emails and websites used to be laughable, but industry experts have discovered a couple of characteristics that are anything but funny. First, bad grammar is often an indication that the person sending the message is foreign, which is ordinarily fine. What isn’t fine is someone who claims to be a US soldier stationed in Kansas, but whose grammar clearly indicates he’s a non-native speaker. Here’s something to remember about grammar: scammers don’t want to waste their valuable time on people who are going to see right through them. By using awkward grammar, scammers are more likely to only catch gullible people instead of those who are savvy enough not to fall for it.

Beware of the sob story

It doesn’t matter what the tale of woe is—stranded in another country and can’t afford a flight, son has been arrested and they can’t pay his bail, sitting aboard a broken down deep sea fishing vessel and can’t get a new engine, whatever—if someone contacts you and eventually has a sad story, be very cautious about engaging. Remember, if this person really did need bail money for a child or money to get home, WHY would they reach out to a stranger they met online? Does this individual have no one else in his or her life whom he can call for help? Think of it this way: if there is genuinely no one closer to this person than a stranger on a dating website, that might be a sign that you shouldn’t invest in this relationship!

Watch out for the excuses

Scammers have gotten really good at coercing their victims, and they’re ready at all times with a playbook of excuses. Maybe he can’t email or chat regularly because he works on an oil rig (a very common line with dating scammers), or maybe she can’t talk on the phone because her parents are very strict and will disown her for having a relationship with someone who isn’t of her culture or religion. Whatever the excuse, they have one…so don’t continue to engage with someone who’s building a story for you to follow.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

When people try to avoid social media scams, they typically think of the Facebook hoaxes that circulate from time to time or even the private messages sent through Facebook that offer you money or prizes.

But the truth is any social media website can be a vehicle for scammers to try to commit fraud, and Instagram is falling in line with the rest of them. When the popular photo sharing site makes news, it’s usually because a celebrity is trying to convince people that her two-year-old accidentally posted a picture of Mommy in a bikini. The reality, though, is that falling for a scam can be all too easy on Instagram since it’s based on visual imagery.

When you see a photo that looks like it was posted by a well-known corporation or individual, it’s much easier to believe than a message sent by a stranger.

1. One of the top Instagram scams is the “something for sharing” scam.

Whether it’s promises of gift cards from that business, free products, or entries into high-dollar sweepstakes, scammers get you to click an image and share it while you hope to win big. What do scammers get out of it? That depends. It could just be access to your contacts’ accounts in order to target you and your friends with advertising—annoying, but harmless. It could also be a mechanism into hacking your actual account though, which is something you want to avoid. The best way to avoid this is to remember that no company needs you to do their advertising for them. Sure, sharing a post is a great way to tell your friends about a legitimate sale at one of your favorite stores, but corporations are not giving away iPads just because you shared their post.

2. Based on what is essentially the idea behind a pyramid scheme (in which you send in $100, for example, and get ten other people to join in, sending you their $100), Instagram has become a hotbed of money flipping schemes.

There’s a catch, though; before the internet, pyramid schemes managed to lure people in because you ostensibly knew the people you were dealing with. You got pulled in by someone you know, then turned around and invited people you know. With the Instagram version, however, you don’t have any idea who these people are. Even worse, the funds are submitted via prepaid debit card. You’re instructed to go buy a card—the more money on it, the bigger your “flip,” or payout—and then post the card number and PIN number on the post. The scammer drains the funds from the prepaid card, and then the game is over for you. No flip, no payout, no nothing.

3. One of the chief problems with Instagram scams is the appearance of people you know “liking” and commenting on the post, giving it their approval. By using hacked accounts or spoof accounts, scammers lead you to believe people you actually know have won big money, earned free goods and gift cards, and more.

Remember that it’s all too easy to create a fake account that looks like it belongs to a friend or family member, so if you’re ever approached by an account you think you know, that doesn’t mean the activity is safe. Trust your instincts when it comes to the “no such thing as a free lunch” rule, and verify any communication with your friend before turning over any money.

Have questions about identity theft? Download the free ID Theft Help app for on-the-go assistance.

Now that spring is officially here and the warm weather is slowly arriving, it’s tempting to take a mental vacation by planning a trip. But there’s nothing fun about being the victim of a travel scam; avoiding these scams starts when you first plan your trip and doesn’t end until you’re home, safe and sound.

Stage One: Planning

As soon as you type “plan a trip” into any search engine, the work of protecting yourself begins. Your screen will fill up with legitimate travel offers, but can also include some major scams. Avoid the temptation to click on any flashy pop ups or sidebar ads that promise you unbelievable deals. First, the deals may actually be too good to be true, but clicking through to get to those websites can actually lead to installing malicious software on your computer. If the ad does take you to a travel website, you could still be at risk from other types of bait-and-switch scams. That’s why it’s important to only plan your vacation with reputable businesses.

Stage Two: HTTPS

If you go to any website that will require you to enter your sensitive personal data, your payment details, or both, it’s important to make sure it’s a secure website. Look for the HTTPS designation in the web address. The S means it’s a secure site, but seeing only HTTP can mean your information is not protected. Remember that some sites might ask for way more information than they need (like a Social Security number or your checking account number), so avoid any website that gets too personal.

Stage Three: Transportation and Lodging

For most people, figuring out how you’re going to get to your destination is the first step in actually going. After all, you have to know how much the flight, train, or bus will cost in order to go there. But as with many web “deals,” you have to do your homework. This is one of those times that it’s crucial to read the fine print, and to understand what you’re getting for your fees. Be wary of paying for “travel insurance” that does nothing more than help you get the exact refund you’re already entitled to from the airline.

You’ve got to sleep some time, and scammers know that. That’s why fraud and scams are so common in booking your accommodations. There are countless ways that accommodations scams can come back to haunt you. It could be turning your credit card information over to a fake company, paying upfront for a property that doesn’t exist, paying for a reservation at a very real location only to find out the guy who sold you the reservation doesn’t even work there…the list goes on. One of the most annoying property scams is the “three nights in the Bahamas for $99!” offers that you’ll find online; they’re upsetting because they’re actually legitimate properties with low prices, but the catch is in the transportation. In order to get that amazing rate, you have to purchase your transportation from them as well, and you end up paying triple what it would have cost you.

Stage Four: Enjoying Your Stay

While you’re on vacation—whether it’s on the other side of the country or the other side of the world—be on guard for scams that can impact your funds, your identity, and even your safety or liberty. Spend some time educating yourself about specific crimes that have been reported in that destination, as well as more general scams that can affect all travelers. Be watchful of things like the fake front desk call, in which someone calls your room and states that you need to verify your credit card number, or fake restaurant flyers slipped under your door can also steal your financial information. If you’re ever told that you’ve broken some law and must pay a fine, be sure to call the police or even the US consulate if you’re abroad.

Stage Five: Home Again

Once you’re back home, it’s important that you keep up with any charges on your credit cards that you may have incurred while you were away. If you thought to keep up with your receipts during your trip, that’s even better. Watch out for any suspicious account activity, which could indicate that your credit card was stolen or copied while you were gone, and request a credit report after you get back home. Look it over carefully for any signs that someone has stolen your identity.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

Every time there are reports of a new scam, it’s easy to think, “This is now rock-bottom. Scammers have hit the lowest point possible.” Whether it’s scams that target the elderly, the disabled, veterans, or any other group that should be seemingly “off-limits” when it comes to intentionally ripping them off or causing them harm, it’s tempting to think that even criminals can’t be this awful.

But the whole reason scams work is because of this vulnerability of the victims. A new scam—the latest “lowest of the low”—involves spoofing a known government phone number and using that tactic to engage in phishing attempts against immigrants. Callers alter their phone numbers to appear on caller ID as though they’re with the US Immigration Office, and then tell the victim that his paperwork is somehow flawed. By threatening the individual with criminal or legal consequences, they defraud immigrants by collecting fees under the guise of avoiding the penalties.

There are a number of reasons that this and other spoofing/phishing scams work. First, the number appears legitimate and the caller sounds knowledgeable. In this case and in many others, the caller may even have access to specific information about you, such as your address or a case number; this information can be obtained through external data breaches or “inside job” intentional breaches. Also, the scammers know that their victims’ fears may prompt them to pay up, whether it’s threats of deportation, threats of turning off an elderly homeowners heat in December, or any other form of intimidation.

Finally, the criminals are counting on one universal characteristic of scams, and that’s the naivety of their victims when it comes to how the process operates. The plan is to convince someone that there’s a little known regulation or requirement that they failed to adhere to. This allows the scammer to coerce the victim into making a payment over the phone, or by ordering them to submit a payment by wire transfer or prepaid credit card within a certain time deadline; this deadline will purposely not leave them much time to investigate the issue, instead forcing them to hurry in order to send the payment without checking out the facts first.

There is one important truth that can stop this kind of fraud in its tracks: no legitimate agency or business will ever demand an instant payment over the phone. If you are ever told that the payment can only be made by instant wire transfer, then that is also a sure sign that something isn’t right. Never submit a payment to someone who calls you out of the blue; it’s absolutely vital that you stop, think it through, and verify the charges by using a known contact number (not the phone number the caller provides) before sending money to anyone.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

If a stranger called to offer you a bucket of used kitty litter, you’d have no trouble hanging up the phone. Who wants something like that? But when it comes to the things we do want, it’s a little harder to ignore that phone call or email.

There’s a reason scams work so well: they go after our vulnerabilities, our fears, and our goals. That’s the case for a Nebraska woman who was contacted on Facebook and offered a $150,000 government grant to start her home-based business. Now, an out-of-the-blue communication that just happens to offer you start-up money when you need it might be a red flag to some people, and scammers know that. That’s why their tactics have become more and more sophisticated.

After Kathy (last name redacted by the news outlet who shared her story) announced her intentions to start a business, her Facebook friends were supportive. One friend in particular, Donna, went above and beyond by sharing information about a government grant program to get her business going.

Donna’s a great friend… or so Kathy thought.

It turns out that not only was this grant a scam, but Donna wasn’t behind it all. She’s a real person and she really is connected to Kathy on Facebook, but her account had been compromised by scammers. Whether they hacked into her actual account and used it or whether they made a replica of her account in order to scam her friends is unclear; what is known is that Kathy trusted the information her friend Donna seemingly shared with her, and it cost her over $11,000 before she realized she’d been scammed.

Sadly, this is just one of the many forms of social media scams that prey on unsuspecting internet users. This one is particularly awful because it pretends to come from someone you know and trust. The hurt caused by believing that your friend or relative may have been responsible is unthinkable, even if you later find that your friend was a victim in this, too.

There are some ways to avoid being taken in by this kind of scam. Remember, the victim initially thought this information was being given to her by a trusted friend; she had no reason to be suspicious, at least not at first.

  1. Never pay money to any organization or individual who’s supposed to give you money back in return – No matter how the scam manifests itself, such as a lottery scam or government grant scam, there is no acceptable reason why you would ever have to pay money in order to receive money. If anyone ever tells you that you’re going to receive X amount if you just pay Y amount, it’s a scam.
  1. Know how your bank works – One of the chief excuses scammers give for requesting money is that your bank needs to see a transaction go through in order to process the deposit. This is playing off of the very real scenario in which you verify your online payment method, such as PayPal. The difference is PayPal charges you a dollar or so to “see” the transaction happen, then turns right around and gives it back as a one dollar deposit when you verify that it was your account. This protects you from hackers using your PayPal account. A scammer will never need you to submit payment for thousands of dollars just to prove that your account is real when one dollar will do.
  1. Taxes and fees – Another common excuse for requiring you to pay in order to get the money is the “taxes and fees” justification. By telling you this lottery winning, assistance program, or shared wealth is yours if you just pay the “required” taxes first, they’re counting on you doing some quick math. What’s a few thousand dollars when your check for $500,000 will be here on Thursday? Of course, there is no check coming. Taxes are paid after you collect income, not before. And what kind of fees could they possibly need you to cover? Is the donor driving the check to your house? No. He would mail it if it was genuine, so your fees shouldn’t be more than the cost of a postage stamp.
  1. Wiring money is a no-no – Instant money transfers or money wires are very useful tools, but they’re also one of the payment methods of choice for scammers around the world. Along with prepaid credit cards, wire transfers are virtually untraceable. The person who receives your wire transfer is a needle in a worldwide haystack. If you’re ever directed to submit any kind of payment by prepaid credit card or wire transfer—especially when applying for a federal program, as if the US government needs you to use Moneygram for some reason—stop what you’re doing and think twice.

It’s bad enough to discover that you’ve been scammed and that you’re never getting your money back. But it also hurts to realize that the money you thought you were getting is never going to help you realize your dreams. Don’t fall for a scam that can wipe out your bank account and your goals at the same time.

Beware the caller bearing gifts… Consumers have reported a recent phone scam in which the caller offers you a free stay at a Marriott resort—although any major-name hotel brand could be used instead—and then launches into a slick sales pitch. But be warned, this one seems to be another in a long line of growing travel scams.

With cold weather firmly settling around us, this kind of scam becomes more and more enticing. Fraudsters know they only have to dangle the possibility of sun swept beaches and palm trees to get winter-weary victims’ attention. Travel scams like this one can take many different forms:

  1. “You’re a winner in our sweepstakes!” – This one is a very interesting phishing scam, and it gets its name from scammers casting their nets far and wide in hopes of catching one or two victims. By promising you that you’ve already won a luxury vacation to some exotic locale, you’re more likely to hand over things like your identifying information, your credit card number to “hold” your reservation, or more. Remember the old adage about something for nothing: no one is going to call you to give you a prize for a contest you didn’t enter. If you receive this kind of call, hang up immediately.
  1. “Three days, two nights in the Bahamas for $99!” – Watch out for the too-good-to-be-true specials. People still fall for these because it is actually possible to score incredible travel deals, especially online, but companies don’t actually email those out to the general public. They certainly don’t call you on the phone with these offers. There are whole books that tell you how to find the best travel deals and what insider information you need in order to locate them; if anyone calls you out of the blue with this offer, it’s probably a scam. HOW does a scammer benefit from this one? Typically, the hotel stay may actually cost you only $99, but it’s because the air travel, which you’re required to book through them in order to claim this deal, is about triple what it would cost you to book the flight on your own. They’ll have more than made up the difference by eating some of the price of the hotel stay, and then still make a tidy profit.
  1. “Stay on the line to discover how you can enjoy seven nights in our luxury hotel!” – When you receive a call with this kind of offer, it’s typically just a ploy to get you to stay on the line and endure the entire sales pitch. While the sales pitches themselves may or may not be on the up-and-up—often requiring outrageous fees in exchange for the trip—be especially careful if this offer comes to you online.

Consumers have already reported a number of scams to the Better Business Bureau that involve the multi-offer online sales pitch. You click the ad for the deluxe hotel stay, but in order to make your reservation you must first click through page after page after page of other offers. Every time you click “No thanks” at the bottom of the screen, it’s actually adding the item to your shopping cart. When you finally use your credit card to pay for your hotel stay, you’ve also paid for all those other items, and maybe even signed up for a monthly subscription or two. Any efforts to cancel those items or halt your subscription are met with frustration and headaches.

Finally, remember that travel scams are some of the oldest around. From arriving at your resort to discover it’s still just a giant sand dune to showing up for your vacation to find out they’ve never heard of you, there are countless ways a fraudster can take your money. The internet has only made it easier, since they now have the free tools to create flashy websites filled with gorgeous photos; they also know there’s a level of anonymity that they didn’t have before. Keep these travel deals at arm’s length, and remember to only work with reputable travel companies or websites when booking your next getaway.