A recent column by the Los Angeles Times to be on guard against scammers reminds us that summer is peak travel and scam season and it’s time to bring out the warnings. First and foremost: Do not send money to people you don’t know.
Money Wiring Scams
You get a call or email from a friend or relative claiming they’re on vacation (often in another country) and they’ve been robbed of cash, passports, plane tickets, everything. Now they’re stranded and begging you for money.
- What to do: Nothing. It is almost certainly a scam. If you can’t verify the voice of this friend or family member why on earth would you send them money? On the off chance you do have relatives traveling in this particular country, ask some personal questions (and not ones where the answers can be found on their Facebook profiles!). Watch the scammer dodge the question. Send nothing.
The Grandparent Scam
Grandparents are thought to be less savvy than others which is why scammers like this money-wiring racket: A grandparent is contacted by someone claiming to be a grandchild who got robbed or ran out of money (we’ve seen warnings about this happening in Spain). The grandparent is asked not to mention this to the kid’s parents.
- What to do: Immediately contact the parents. If this is for real, that’s who the kid should be calling anyway. Plus, if the kid calls and you don’t recognize his voice, that means he never calls anyway so why bail him out of a jam?
Be Wary of These Scams, Too
Deals on vacation rentals: A news report cites Better Business Bureau warnings about vacation property advertised for rent (possibly on websites like Craigslist) that seems too cheap or you are unable to speak to the owner by phone or it requires a substantial deposit before any inspection can be done.
- What to do: As a former president was fond of saying, trust but verify. Better yet, don’t trust at all, just verify. And send no money.
The dating game: Did you bump into an attractive man/woman on your last trip and suddenly hear from them via email? Even if this doesn’t ring a bell, they will claim to have noticed you and will keep up a flattering correspondence. Ultimately, you will probably be asked to send money so you two can get together in person.
- What to do: Cupid has nothing to do with this, so don’t send money. Besides, shouldn’t they love you for yourself?
The distraction dodge: A fast-talking fellow with a good line of patter ties a pretty string bracelet around your wrist on Las Ramblas in Barcelona while his confederates pick your pockets. A woman carrying a baby bumps into you on a street in Rome; after the ensuing apologies you walk away only to discover your wallet is gone (and by the way, that wasn’t a real baby).
- What to do: Be alert, carry your valuables in safe places and do not let yourself be distracted.