VACATION SCAMS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Sherry McCoy

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 nbynews@juno.com.

VACATION SCAMS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program

It’s June 2021 and Summer has arrived! Now that restrictions are lifting a bit with respect to the pandemic, 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, or maybe even go deep sea fishing or parasailing! Seriously, though, we’ve all been cooped up for quite a while, and now it’s time for a vacation.  But, in our haste to get away from it all, let us not forget to stay safe, and to use our good judgement and 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[1], 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 in the business of stealing money, and to them, seniors are 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 things to keep in mind.

WHAT IS A VACATION SCAM?

Typically, a vacation scam offers you the deal of a lifetime at a “ridiculously low cost”; or a membership in a travel club with “huge discounts”; or “free” travel to a highly desired destination. The problem is, in order to get the discounted or “free” vacation, you must pay something up front. (Oooops! Red Flag — If you have to pay something up front, how is that ‘free”?)  If you say you need time to think about it, or talk it over with a neighbor or relative, the scammer may try to pressure, shame or bully you into buying it right now. (Oooops! Another Red Flag – Strong-arming clients into buying a vacation package isn’t the sign of a normal, healthy, legitimate business. Think about it.) Then, once the scammers have your money, they hit the road and are long gone, leaving you with … absolutely nothing.  What kind of a vacation is that?!

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM VACATION SCAMS

Do Your Homework

  • 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.
  • 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.

Be Proactive

  • 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, its’ 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.

Protect Personal Information

  • 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.

And finally, if you find a travel/vacation package that you believe is legit, the BBB suggests paying for it with a credit card. This is because – should any problems emerge down the road — consumers have better recourse if they paid via credit card.

HAPPY TRAILS!

If you believe you have been the target or victim of a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.  If you have questions about Medicare fraud / abuse or believe you have been the victim of Medicare fraud contact the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP*) at 1-855-613-7080.  If you feel you have been the target or victim of a scam, you may also report it to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.

NATIONAL SENIOR FRAUD AWARENESS DAY

The U.S Senate unanimously passed Resolution 214 designating May 13th as National Senior Fraud Awareness Day. Senators Susan M. Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) co-sponsored this Resolution. U.S Representative Karen Bass (D-CA) sponsored House Resolution 392 supporting the designation of May 13th as National Senior Fraud Awareness Day. Locally, Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin co-sponsored a Resolution to designate May 15th as Senior Fraud Awareness Day in Los Angeles. This is the eighth year that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Resolution. These Resolutions raise awareness about the increased number of senior scams and support the efforts of the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program. We thank the sponsors and co-sponsors for making this an important issue!

STOP SENIOR SCAMS ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE

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 of our most 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 nbynews@juno.com.

[1] https://sixtyandme.com/travel-scams-target-seniors-how-to-protect-yourself/

“Why are there so many senior travel scams?  How can you protect yourself?” January 26, 2019

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