Labor Day is just around the corner, and perhaps no one is looking forward to the long weekend more than scammers and identity thieves. The three-day holiday lends itself to a wide variety of ways to steal your money, your personal data or both, so it’s important to brush up on how to spot a possible scam in order to avoid it.
This particular holiday is traditionally a time for families to take one last quick getaway for the season. In 2015, travel and road service organization AAA said that an expected 35.5 million Americans travel over the three-day weekend. Unfortunately, another statistic can put a damper on those plans: according to the Better Business Bureau, vacation scams cost U.S. consumers around $10 billion per year.
While the internet has grown into an excellent resource for finding steep discounts and bonus packages on travel, accommodations and meals, it’s also a snare that can lead straight to a scammer. It’s important to be on the lookout for flashy pop-up ads, awkward or incorrect wording and spelling in emails or deals that are so cheap that they’re not believable. Remember, just clicking a link and looking into some of these deals can have repercussions if the website the scammer created installs malicious software on your computer.
Play it safe and only use trusted companies to book your hotel, flight or other vacation needs.
Thieves can insert skimming film into the card reader of a gas pump, point-of-sale system, even a restaurant payment card machine, and that film can nab all of the account information off your card. It’s then transferred onto a blank magnetic stripe card and used in physical locations (which will not necessarily trigger a “suspicious purchase” alert from your card since the card was present at the transaction). You need to be on the lookout for this common holiday travel pitfall, even if your travel plans don’t take you any farther than the local lakeside or park.
If a gas pump or POS payment machine looks tampered with, you might consider using a different pump, going into the store to pay or even using a different payment method. If you’re eating out and the server has to leave with the card to make payment, you could also fall victim to skimming. It’s always a good idea to look over your account statements routinely, but especially after any kind of holiday or major event.
Are you staying home this year? Labor Day might be a great time to take advantage of a number of sales and discount specials, but buyer beware, phishing emails that offer you massive discounts can redirect you to phony websites. Once there, you enter your personal information and payment card account, only to have it stolen by a scammer.
Fortunately, many retailers—both physical and online—advertise their upcoming holiday specials in advance. If you’re buying a high-end item, you should have plenty of time to look for the best deal and find the most reputable retailer.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.
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