Ah, summer. A time of the year when the sun is shining, the days are long, and the breezes are warm. But while these factors make summer a great time of year to spend quality time with your friends and family, it also brings about several specific types of scams that you should be on the lookout for.
According to the WA Attorney General’s office, two of the most popular summer scams involve random strangers offering a “too good to be true” home repair deals, in addition to fake vacation rental/time share opportunities. With this in mind, let’s take a look at each of these in greater detail, as well as what you can do to avoid them in the first place.
Summer Scam #1: The Drive-By Fixit
Whether it’s painting your house, re-shingling your roof, or paving your driveway, scammers often take advantage of the great summer weather to separate you from your hard-earned money. These scammers will often claim that they have leftover material from a local job they’ve completed and that they need to use the remainder. As such, they’ll often be willing to give it to you for next to nothing—as long as you’ll agree to have the work completed right then and there, and to pay the full amount upfront.
Unfortunately, the reality is that these scammers will typically use very low-grade materials and will complete the work using shoddy craftsmanship. This includes watered down paint or stain, hastily-poured asphalt or concrete that won’t last much longer than the summer itself, or poor quality shingles that are not affixed to your roof properly—potentially leading to even bigger problems once the summer rains arrive.
Speaking of summertime storms, another common scam is to visit areas recently struck by hard rains and to offer inexpensive tree trimming or basement “inspections.” When it comes to tree trimming, these scammers will often bid an extraordinarily low price, only to increase it dramatically once “unexpected problems” arise. As far as basement inspections, you can rest assured that scammers will always find a very expensive problem that requires an expensive repair, when the reality is that you may have some water retention due to simple repairs such as clogged gutters.
Summer Scam #2: Vacation Rentals & Timeshare Opportunities
Who doesn’t want their very own piece of paradise, especially during the summer? Most scammers prey on their victims’ innermost desires, and they fully recognize that the summer is the most lucrative time of year them for to scam you out of your hard-earned money. As a result, you’ll find Craigslist ads galore for vacation rentals, in addition to almost daily mailers advertising timeshare seminars in your area.
However, if you contact the number in the Craigslist ad to inquire about the rental, keep in mind that it may be for a property that doesn’t actually exist, or for one that the advertiser doesn’t even own. These types of scammers will often ask for the rental fees upfront, and by the time you realize that you’ve been scammed, they’re long gone and on to their next victim.
On the other hand, when it comes to timeshares, these companies will often attempt to entice you into one of their seminars using free gifts such as televisions, digital cameras, and more. Once you’re there, they’ll often put as much pressure on you as they can, such as telling you that you’re receiving an ultra-low, limited time offer, in order for you to make a quick, ill-informed decision. However, the reality is that these timeshares are typically being offered at vastly inflated prices.
What Can You Do to Avoid Being Scammed this Summer?
According to a brochure released by the New York State Attorney General, here are some simple tips you can use to avoid falling for these types of scams:
1. Stay alert
Reputable tradesman will never approach you unsolicited about performing a service, and they definitely won’t make you feel like the situation is dire and needs to be addressed right then and there. Instead of feeling like you need to make an immediate situation, ask for the individual’s business card, and then spend a day or two researching your options. This includes searching for the company through the Better Business Bureau, obtaining references for some of their past clients, and verifying their local address.
2. Obtain written estimates
Most scammers will attempt to make you pay the entire amount upfront, and even to bill you for work you didn’t approve once the job is complete. If a contractor refuses to provide you with this, politely decline and contact local law enforcement.
3. Ask to see proof of insurance
It’s often the case that if one of these scammers is injured on the job, they’ll attempt to make a claim against your homeowner’s insurance policy. In fact, they may intentionally injure themselves just to rack up as many charges as possible. If they have insurance, however, the financial responsibility for any injuries falls on them (no pun intended).
4. Check the seller’s phone number and address
For summertime vacation rentals and/or timeshare opportunities, always check the seller’s phone number and address, as well as the address of the property they’re promoting. In addition, ask for references of past clients and always pay using a method that can be easily tracked and disputed (such as a major credit card or PayPal) should things go south.
5. Immunize yourself against high-pressure sales tactics
Whether you’re presented with a drive-by fixit or a timeshare opportunity, scammers will make it seem like you must make an immediate decision in order to obtain “the best possible deal.” Instead, separate yourself from the situation and take all the time you need in order to make an informed decision. Also, if you do decide to purchase a timeshare, recognize that this should not be considered a profitable investment, and that you’ll almost certainly lose money once you decide to sell.
Have you been a victim of a summertime scam, or do you have tips that other HighYa readers can use to keep more of their hard-earned money? If so, be sure to leave a comment and share your knowledge with the world. Also, if you found this article helpful, please share it by clicking the buttons at the top of this page.
More on Avoiding Scams:
- Top Online Scams & Best Ways to Avoid Them
- The New Elder Abuse: Senior Scams & Why They Have Such a Big Impact
- How to Identify & Avoid Phone Scams