30 Jun UPDATE ON VACATION SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE ON VACATION SCAMS
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program
It’s July 2022, and believe it or not, we are halfway through the year! The good news, however, is that Summer has arrived! Restrictions are lifting a bit from the pandemic, and many of us are thinking about taking a trip somewhere – to visit friends and relatives or lie on a beach for a week or two! We’ve all been cooped up for a long while, and vacation time is extremely appealing. But, in our haste to get away from it all, let’s remember to stay safe, use our good judgement, and our common sense. We want to stay healthy and steer clear of fraudsters who are just itching to separate us from our life savings! According to the U.S. National Council on Aging (https://sixtyandme.com/travel-scams-target-seniors-how-to-protect-yourself/) seniors are often targeted in travel and vacation scams because they are believed to have more money in the bank than other segments of the population. Scammers, after all, are professional liars who are in the business of stealing things (money, assets, identity, etc.) that don’t belong to them. To fraudsters, seniors are just a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! So, to make sure you have a wonderful and fraud-free vacation, here are some important tips to consider this summer.
WHAT IS A VACATION SCAM?
Free Vacation Prize — If you get an unsolicited call, text, email, fax or letter in the mail that says you have “won a free vacation,” and all you have to do to collect your prize is send a small fee or purchase a product or service, such as join a travel club or buy an extra ticket for a companion — This is a scam! A legitimate business is not going to ask you to pay a fee or purchase anything to collect a prize. Additionally, if the prize company asks for your credit card information so they can “verify” your identity, do not give them this information. Scammers collect personal and credit card info for one purpose only, i.e., identity theft.
Travel Insurance – If you are considering the purchase of travel cancellation insurance for your vacation, contact the U.S. Travel Insurance Association at http://www.ustia.org/ to make sure the company you are dealing with is legit, i.e., a licensed travel insurance company. You don’t want to pay for travel insurance only to find out that the policy you purchased is bogus.
Vacation Rental Scams — Con artists list fraudulent vacation rentals in the classified ad sections of local or national newspapers or online (e.g., Craigslist) as a way of attracting victims. They promise you the world and entice you with beautiful pictures and testimonials that sound too good to be true. And they offer you the deal of the century – discounted rates that are tempting because of the unbelievably low price! The only catch is – the scammer may have no real affiliation to the vacation property that is advertised, or the vacation rental may be completely made-up. The scammers will often require that you wire them money in advance to secure the vacation rental. And once they have your money, they skip town, so to speak, and you are left empty handed. You are out the money you paid, and there is no vacation rental to be found.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM VACATION SCAMS
Do’s & Don’ts
- In general, it’s important to do your homework when planning a vacation. Talk to friends and family about their travel experiences and get recommendations from them about reputable travel companies.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the company or person who is trying to sell you a travel package is legitimate. Have other consumers reported this company / person?
- Do a general internet search regarding the company name and the salesperson’s name.
- Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into buying, signing or paying for anything. Make sure you get everything in writing before you agree to purchase anything.
- Step away from deals that look a little fishy or are simply too good to be true. Remember – if it’s too good to be true, it is probably a scam.
- To determine if a website is valid, go to https://www.scam-detector.com/. You can download the free Scam Detector app on your smartphone.
- Learn to say “No, thank you,” and walk away or hang up the phone. As seniors, many of us were taught growing up not to be rude. But walking away from a scammer or hanging up the phone is not rude. It’s taking good care of yourself; it’s self-preservation.
- Screen your calls, i.e., don’t answer the phone unless you know who the caller is. If the call is important, the caller can leave a voicemail message and you can call them back, if you want to.
- Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Screen your mail – postcards offering “free” vacations or “huge travel discounts” are more than likely scams. Rip them up and throw them out.
- Never give out personal information to a stranger – over the phone, in a text, or email, etc.
- Keep your banking, credit card, Social Security, debit card, and birth date info private.
- Never wire money – it’s the same as sending cash, and you’ll likely never get it back.
- It’s not a good idea to post personal information about your travel plans on social media such as Facebook. It lets criminals know when you are away from your home.
- If you find a travel/vacation package that you believe is legit, the BBB suggests paying for it with a credit card. Why? If any problems emerge down the road, consumers have better recourse if they paid via credit card.
- Be careful when you travel – Guard your personal identification to keep safe from pickpockets.
- And lastly, stay informed. For additional info re: travel scams, read this update by the Federal Trade Commission. https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/avoid-scams-when-you-travel#:~:text=before%20you%20pay.-,3%20Ways%20To%20Avoid%20Travel%20Scams,time%20to%20consider%20the%20offer.
HAPPY & SAFE TRAVELS TO ALL!
If you would like to share a personal scam story or have any questions or thoughts about scams that target seniors, please feel free to write to me at “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!
Be Empowered. Find Your Voice. Speak Out About Fraud!
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
For questions about Medicare fraud / abuse, contact Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.
U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
RECENT AND UPCOMING SSSAP PERFORMANCES
SSSAP Veterans (left to right: Robert DeVille, Tyrone Small, Michael Brodie) performed on June 12, 2022, at Madrid Theater in Canoga Park for ‘Arts and Humanity’ Community Event sponsored by Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield.
SAVE THE DATE!
The Stop Senior Scams Acting Program will perform free of charge at Mar Vista Rec Center, 11430 Woodbine Ave, La 90066, on Friday, July 8, 2022, at 10:30am, for Mar Vista Senior Club. We hope to see you there!
SSSAP continues virtual programs, and we are now booking in-person programs for 2022. Please contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com for more info, or if your organization would like to host our program.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
We are proud to announce a new SSSAP video on Senior Fraud Awareness, sponsored by the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging (VCAAA). Click this link to watch it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVjSdUaoY9E
Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.
Remember – You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.