Summer is vacation time, and the Better Business Bureau has a few warnings to keep you and your wallet safe as you travel the highways and byways this season. Here’s Bob Manista with some warnings for travelers.
1. The BBB and FBI have joined to warn travelers about a nasty scam. Tell us about it.
n Everybody loves free Wi-Fi and wireless internet connections in your hotel room, but you need to be careful about the con man in the next room or hotel lobby hacking into your laptop.
n When you’re working on a wireless hotel connection, do not respond to pop-ups that say you need to update software for the connection to work. Most hotels give you a password to log onto the hotel’s network. That’s all you should need to make the wireless connection work.
n Try not to important any new software while traveling or using a wireless connection. That’s a gateway for con men to access your laptop.
2. A lot of scams put your family and friends at risk while you’re away. How do those work?
-- You should tell your family and friends where you’re going and when you’ll return, but don’t post notices on social media sites. The FBI has investigated dozens of scams and the BBB has collected hundreds of complaints based on a con man cruising Facebook and other sites to learn your travel plans and exploit them.
-- In one scam, the con man gets in touch with your family and poses as a police officer, ambulance driver or some other first responder to say that you’ve been in an accident or are in trouble, and that the only way to save you is for that family member to wire money.
-- The scam works because the target isn’t given a chance to check things out or think things through. If you were on the road and had a problem, you’d expect your family to do whatever they could to help you out. The con man doesn’t give them a chance to check with you or your hotel – they want the money NOW.
3. Travelers are also being warned to be careful about using cell phones abroad. How does that scam work?
-- Even in the best situation, using your cell phone from a foreign country could cost you a lot of roaming charges. You should check with your carrier to see what you can do to minimize those.
-- Con games have popped up where a foreign carrier will charge outrageous fees for the use of their towers or transmitting equipment when overseas. Some are sophisticated enough to steal and copy your signal for their own use.
-- It’s a good idea to check your itemized cell phone bill any time, but especially when you’ve been on a trip. Look for unknown charges and dispute them through your cell carrier.