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Save Yourself Work — Avoid These 3 Labor Day Scams

Sept. 3, 2015
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As you look out for sales signs this Labor Day weekend, look for warning signs, too. This year, the holiday weekend will come with both sales and swindles.

From booking travel to shopping online, keep your eyes peeled for three scams that threaten to take the fun out of your holiday weekend discount shopping.

1. Travel two-timing

Labor Day travel could reach impressive levels this year, with AAA Travel projecting that some 35.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the long weekend, the highest volume since 2008. That’s a whole lot of plane, bus and train tickets.

But that’s likely not the only figure that will be sky-high. The Better Business Bureau reports that too-good-to-be-true vacation scams cost consumers a whopping $10 billion each year.

And as travelers board planes and check into hotels, scammers will try to capitalize on end-of-summer trips, whether it’s advertising “free” vacation giveaways or promising a spectacular room, only to deliver a subpar one.

If you’re one of the millions planning on leaving home – or even planning to purchase tickets now for travel later in the year – be careful.

Before you book any type of travel, check that the website or agency you’re using is reputable and its advertised rates are legitimate. When in doubt, check for a Better Business Bureau accreditation and conduct a quick online search for customer reviews.

If you’re still not sure how to spot a travel trick, here are a few more scam prevention tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Consult family and friends for reliable travel recommendations.
  • If you get an unsolicited travel offer, call the company directly to confirm specifics. It may be a red flag if you’re unable to reach a representative by phone.
  • Don’t sign up for a travel club (not even for a free trial) before finding out how you can cancel and if there are any fees associated with your membership.

And the scam prevention doesn’t stop when you arrive at your destination. The BBB warns consumers to never give out financial information over the phone. If you’re staying at a hotel, visit the front desk for payment issues, because scammers may call your room pretending to be hotel staff.

2. Phishing 

It’s the scam that keeps on giving (or taking). Year after year and holiday after holiday, scammers use social media, email and other online methods to swindle trusting shoppers.

Here’s how the story plays out: Consumers come across a link – either in their newsfeed or delivered to their inbox – that promises to lead to a spectacular deal on a fabulous new item. Once they click, though, they realize it’s a phishing scam designed to unleash a computer virus on their system or rip off their financial information.

But avoiding these types of scams is relatively simple. Don’t click on any links in unsolicited emails and don’t download any attachments that don’t come directly from sources you trust.

3. Fake websites

Early this year, the BBB ranked its top 10 scams of 2014. Landing at No. 4 on the list was the “copycat website scam,” a tactic in which scammers create a phony landing page that looks just like the real website of a major retailer. Unsuspecting shoppers make a purchase, only to gain a counterfeit product and lose their financial information to a criminal.

Because Labor Day is such a major shopping holiday, you can bet scammers will be up to their old tricks. Avoid becoming a victim by only making purchases from retailers you trust and always visiting a store’s website directly, rather than clicking on any email, social media or other referral links.

Shop safely year-round

Scams aside, no matter what you buy or where you shop this Labor Day weekend, you can keep yourself and your wallet safe. Here are our best tips:

  • When conducting transactions online, only input financial information on website with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. Just look for the “https://” at the beginning of the website’s URL.
  • Shop with your credit card, rather than your debit card, because it’ll be easier to dispute any suspicious charges if your card is compromised.
  • Regularly monitor your financial accounts so you’ll be able to spot suspicious activity as soon as it appears.
  • When shopping in person, keep your wallet in your front pocket or zipped in your purse as you make your way through crowded spaces. If you do any store hopping, always keep your purchases out of sight in your vehicle.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

Image via iStock.