It’s finally starting to feel like spring, and summer is right around the corner.
But of course, warmer temperatures bring scammers out to play.
Here’s what to watch for:
Summer job scams
With college students home for a few months, summer is a prime time to earn some extra cash. Scammers know it, and they target college students with fake job ads.
The phony listings might be found on social media, in a local paper or on sites like Craigslist.
The jobs offered vary, but the scam works similarly for all.
The employer might tell the student they need certain supplies for a job, so the employer will pre-pay them for the items and their first week’s salary. But, the employer says, the student will need to buy the items from a specific vendor — another part of the scam.
The student deposits the check — often for thousands of dollars — and withdraws money, sending it to the vendor.
But then the employer’s check bounces, the student is left with an overdrawn checking account and the employer is nowhere to be found.
Think twice before accepting any employment from someone you’ve never met in person. Never accept a check for services you haven’t provided or to buy supplies, and be suspicious if you’re ever told to send money somewhere. If you’re not sure, wait several days to make sure a check clears before you withdraw money against the deposit.
Fake vacation rental scams
If you’re planning a summer vacation, make sure the property you rent is the real thing.
Con artists will pose as landlords and place ads to rent properties they don’t own. Others will create fake rentals at fake addresses, borrowing descriptions and photos from real properties and representing them as something else.
When you wire money to a phony landlord for the deposit or for the entire fee, you won’t know you’ve been scammed until you arrive at the property — or the address that doesn’t exist — suitcases and family in tow.
To protect yourself, do some research before you pay for that dream vacation.
Seeing a property in person is the best way to go, but if that’s not possible, head to your computer.
Do online searches to make sure the property really exists. Make sure the landlord is really the owner of the property by searching the town’s tax rolls online.
Ask the landlord to use Skype or FaceTime to walk you through the property.
And when you pay, avoid cash, wire services and pre-paid debit cards. A credit card will give you a paper trail to follow.
Read this past column with more tips to avoid rental scams.
It’s common for scammers to walk neighborhoods, knocking on doors to find their next victim.
Among the most common door-to-door scammers are those who claim to represent a charity. Never give money to someone without first checking out the organization. Check sites like CharityNavigator.org and ask the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs online or at (973) 504-6215 to see if the charity is legit. If it’s the real thing and you want to give support, you can always mail a check later.
Next, beware of anyone who claims to work for a utility company and shows up at your door unexpected. If you weren’t previously told a worker would come calling, don’t let the person into your home. Instead, call the utility to confirm, and find out what kind of identification and dress you should expect from a real employee.
Finally, and this is a biggie, be suspicious of contractors who come calling. It’s not uncommon for workers to say, “Hey, we were doing some work in the neighborhood and we noticed your roof looks pretty old/your driveway needs repaving/your trees need trimming.” Or the contractor may simply ask if you need any work done.
These guys aren’t necessarily scammers. They could be talented craftspeople with fair prices and the proper qualifications.
But you won’t know until you do some research.
Contact Consumer Affairs to see if the company is registered or licensed, and if there are any complaints against it. Ask the contractor for references and a copy of their liability insurance policy.
Here’s more on how you can search public records for information on the company, including how to get information on bankruptcies and lawsuits against the firm.
Summer is a popular time for artists to tour, and swindlers will try to take advantage.
You might do well to find tickets for that sold out show on social media or on sites like Craigslist, but how will you know it’s the real thing?
Just about anyone can run this scam thanks in part to a website that allows you to create realistic-looking fake concert tickets. The site is meant to create novelty items, like something you’d use as a birthday gift, for example, for the aspiring singer or actor in your life. Or you might use it to fashion invitations to a party.
They look a lot like the real thing, with seat numbers, a bar code and more.
If you try to buy a ticket from a scalper outside a venue, you’ll probably have a tough time knowing if the seat is real or fake, created by some crafty con artists.
To protect yourself, avoid scalpers and only buy tickets from legitimate sellers and re-sellers. If you’re not sure, do some research. A simple Google search with the website name and the word “complaints” will tell you a lot.
And here’s more from Ticketmaster on fake ticket scams.
Just remember: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Email your questions to Ask@NJMoneyHelp.com.
Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for NJ Advance Media and is the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Follow NJMoneyHelp on Twitter @NJMoneyHelp. Find NJMoneyHelp on Facebook. Sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.