Don’t let an eclipse blind you to scams

  
     
We are mere days away from the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, which will be visible to all of North America. The “path of totality” where the total solar eclipse is visible will stretch through 13 states from Oregon to South Carolina. In the center of that 70-mile wide path, the total eclipse will last from 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Outside of this path, observers will see a partial eclipse.
August 14, 2017

We are mere days away from the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, which will be visible to all of North America. The “path of totality” where the total solar eclipse is visible will stretch through 13 states from Oregon to South Carolina. In the center of that 70-mile wide path, the total eclipse will last from 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Outside of this path, observers will see a partial eclipse.

Big events also mean big opportunities for scammers and unscrupulous businesses. With a rare event like this, it is important to plan carefully and to trust your instincts. Here are some things to be wary of while you get ready for the eclipse.

Counterfeit Eclipse Glasses

To view the solar eclipse directly without damage to your eyes, you need special solar filter glasses. These are much more powerful than sunglasses. While sunglasses only block about 50% of the sun’s rays, solar filter glasses block more than 99.99%. Unfortunately, many of the solar glasses available online may be counterfeit or do not meet safety specifications. Your best bet is to stick with a brand whose glasses are certified by NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). A list of reputable vendors from AAS can be found by visiting, https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

Accommodation Scams

If you are looking for a place to stay during the eclipse, be careful if you are booking through a site like Airbnb, VRBO, or Craigslist. Make sure to correspond within the website or app and not through other means. Always double check that a listing is on the real website and emails are coming from official addresses. Using a credit card offers the best fraud protection. Don’t deal with anyone who asks for payment outside of the platform’s approved options.

Event Scams

Cities across the path of totality are holding eclipse festivals with both free events and VIP viewing parties. Scammers may set up fake events or charge people for access to free public parties. Tips for avoiding summer festival scams can also help you separate real eclipse events from fake ones. These tips can be found at BBB.org. NASA also has information on many events at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.  

Bus Scams

Traffic will likely be heavy on any road between a major city and the eclipse path. A bus might sound like great option, but be careful you don’t make a reservation only to end up without transportation. Make sure you deal directly with a bus or limo company to avoid scammers using a legitimate business as a front. Go to BBB.org to look for accredited businesses and read reviews and complaints before you book.

This month’s eclipse may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a rare astronomical event right in your backyard. That urgency and unique opportunity are what can make scams successful. Remember to do your research and always trust your instincts -- if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are the victim of a scam or other unscrupulous business practice related to the eclipse, you can go to BBB.org to open a complaint or report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit BBB.org.

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Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB by visiting bbb.org, by emailing info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org, or by calling 800-763-4222.