This summer Americans are traveling and scammers are ready to take advantage

It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. The number of scams involving consumers continue to be at elevated levels during the pandemic. Earlier this month I spoke with Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, Missouri. She has the story of one Reeds Mill resident and a reminder that not all scams involve $100’s or even $1,000’s of dollars. 

Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, MO

We’ve had a person in Reddings Mill, right outside of the Joplin area, who fell for this scam. The person lost $86, and this consumer thought she found a great deal. She thought she found an amazing Ninja Foodie. She was so excited. It was on sale. It was on Amazon Prime Day. All the things are lining up for her. However, she then started looking for an even better price and that’s where she ran into trouble. She went to a website that wasn’t legitimate. That looked very similar to the Overstock.com website, but it wasn’t. It said that it was supposed to be on sale for more than it was on Amazon Prime Day. She went ahead and used Paypal for the purchase. And according to her Paypal account, she was charged but it was actually hard to determine whether the same went through on a legitimate website. She kept feeling like it was less and less legit. Things didn’t make sense, they didn’t add up. She went ahead and signed out. This consumer never heard back from the scammer. Disputed the purchase with Paypal and after a few days, the seller sent a tracking number to Paypal as proof that she had received the item, which she had not. At that point, Paypal sided with the seller and closed the dispute. So we want people to be very cautious.

This consumer ended up not getting this at all. So this is a really big deal. This is where she could have bought something that was going to be amazing, it was going to be on sale, it was a legit business, and then unfortunately she went elsewhere and fell for a scam. What we are seeing here and at the Better Business Bureau. Is that people are going ahead and they are going on online purchase scams when they check out and they’re hitting that submit button and it’s taking them to Paypal, they are trusting Paypal to completely cover them. And what we’re seeing here is a startling trend in the Ozarks and the Four State region, is what’s going on is Paypal is receiving a tracking number from the seller, a lot of time Paypal is going ahead and deciding on the side of the seller, instead of the side of the consumer. So we want the consumer to be buyer beware if you’re purchasing on Paypal realize that you’re not completely covered and you might not your money back if you fall for a scam.”

Stephanie Garland

When shopping online it can be easy to believe that less expensive prices will translate into saving money. But in many instances if it looks to good to be true, it probably is. Due to the pandemic last year, many of us did travel in 2020, which has led to an explosion of hotel related scams this year. Stephanie tells us more. 

“If you are listening right now and you’re traveling we want for you to be aware of hotel scams. These can take place in a variety of different forms. There’s a fake website where your online, whether it’s on your phone, or your tablet, or your computer, your shopping online. Looks like a legit hotel reservation and it’s not. So you might want to consider looking at BBB.org, to check out if the hotel is accredited. See it’s rating. You also might want to look, we’ve got a BBB National Partner, The American Lodging and Hotel Association. You might want to see if they are listed there as well.”

Stephanie Garland

These days scammers aren’t stopping with hotel scams. The Better Business Bureau has received complaints of fake food delivery services. The restaurant’s menu and delivery service appear to be real and so does their customer service when you call to order. Stephanie tells us more about a newer scam. 

“We’ve also had fake front desk calls. These work, it’s 2, or 3 in the morning you and you’re family are asleep and then you get somebody calling you supposedly from the front desk. The caller is calling for credit card information, there’s a problem with the credit card on file. They may have said it’s declined or they need to re-verify the payment information, or they had a system failure, “we lost all of your financial information and we need to run the audit by a certain time”. So instead, of course, you don’t want to walk all the way down to the lobby. But it’s the best thing to do to make sure you’re not giving your information to a fake person. So be very cautious. We’ve also warned about this before Fred but it’s good to touch on it again, free wi-fi connections. So this is something to watch out for and be very, very cautious. The Better Business Bureau always advises you to take a step back and never log in to one of these sites and then log into your sensitive information. Like your bank account, your credit union, etc. So just be very cautious and make sure the wi-fi connection is secure. Consider carrying a hotspot with you, a lot of time your phone plan can have one that’s included for extra or free and that might be a great option for you.”

Stephanie Garland

Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau in Springfield, Missouri speaking earlier this month about some of the scams and too good to be true offers that Four State residents are notifying her office about. To learn more, visit bbb.org

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