Similar to home or apartment rental scams on Craigslist, consumers view ads for a vacation home or resort rental and, based on the enticing description or photos, wire a deposit or put money onto a prepaid card, such as Green Dot. If it’s a scam, when they arrive at their destination, they discover the address isn’t real, the property isn’t owned by the person who took the deposit or the “gorgeous” resort turns out to be rundown or even closed.
To avoid those unpleasant scenarios, the BBB advises Googling the address to confirm the property exists and isn’t out of business. If it’s a third-party travel site, call the hotel or resort’s 800 number to verify your reservation.
Wiring a deposit is always a red flag. “We don’t recommend that people wire money or put money on a reloadable card,” said Peterson. “Once you do, you generally have no way of getting it back.”
WORD TO THE WISE
Traveling is always an adventure. And with a few safeguards, you can enjoy it worry-free.———
SAFE TRAVEL TIPS
1. Stop mail/paper deliveries. Catalogs and newspapers cluttering your doorstep are a sure sign that nobody is home.
2. Make your home look inhabited. Recruit a trusted friend or family member to house-sit or stop by to turn on lights, water plants and pick up loose mail and papers. Or put lights on timers to go on and off at regular hours.
3. Delete, delete. Empty your wallet of extra cards and IDs. Never travel with your Social Security card or checkbook. Only put your name/phone on luggage tags, not an address. (Bring a spare credit card in case yours is lost.)
4. Copy important documents. Make paper copies of your passport, plane tickets, hotel reservations, health insurance card, etc.; keep separate from originals but not in checked luggage. Or scan copies, then save on an encrypted thumb drive or email to yourself.
5. Sign up for STEP. The U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program lets you set up an account when traveling overseas. In a financial, legal or medical emergency, the local U.S. embassy can help you more efficiently. STEP also offers travel alerts, embassy contacts and visa/vaccination rules. Go to step.state.gov.
6. Watch your pockets. Be alert for pickpockets. Carry your wallet in a front pocket. Wear your purse strap across your torso. Split money into small amounts in different zipped pockets or on your body. Use cash inconspicuously; avoid pulling out a wad and fumbling with bills.
7. Go online with caution. On your laptop, tablet or smartphone, never check personal websites – email, banking or credit card accounts – on public computers or Wi-Fi systems. Update security software and be sure you’ve got strong passwords on all devices. Only go online using encrypted Internet connections.
8. Use the hotel safe. It may not look secure, but it’s safer than leaving your laptop, passport, extra cash or credit cards exposed in your room. Even if you’re only running down to the lobby or heading out for an errand, use your room or hotel safe.
9. Don’t post on social media. Wait until you get home to share travel posts/photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If your entire network knows you’re traveling, someone could use that info to burglarize your home.
10. Alert your bank/credit card companies. Before leaving town, notify your banks and credit card companies where you’ll be traveling and for how long. Use credit cards, which generally have more fraud protections than debit cards. Try to use ATMs only inside banks, not in busy, touristy spots.
©2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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