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Here's how to avoid getting scammed during your summer vacation

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While many will be traveling for the summer holidays, some of those unfortunate vacationers will be the target of summer scams.

To prevent this, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance's (TDCI) Division of Consumer Affairs released a list of tips and information to help Tennesseans avoid common scams and protect their identity.

“Summer travel is a great opportunity to make fun memories with family and friends,”
said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak.

“Unfortunately, deceptive tactics like bogus vacation rentals and gas station credit card skimmers can quickly put a damper on a good time. By remembering a few basic scam-prevention guidelines, Tennessee consumers can help protect their money and personal information while out and about this summer.”

To avoid card skimmers/shimmers, be aware of where such scams are most likely to take place. TDCI said skimmers are found on the outside of the card reader at popular spots such as gas stations. They target the magnetic strip of the card. Shimmers are found inside the card reader, and they target the chip in debit/credit cards.

Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn't show signs of tampering. Many gas stations put security seals over the cabinet panel, TDCI said. If that is broken, the label will read void which means that the machine has been tampered with.

The TDCI said if there is a skimmer in place, wiggling your card should dislodge it. Notify the cashier, or operating company if it's discovered at an ATM, if you find a skimmer or believe one could be in place.

Regularly check your bank statements and online accounts for fraudulent charges and report them if found to your bank.

Be wary of travel agents, TDCI said. Do your research before booking or handing any money over to planning services. Signs that you're dealing with an illegitimate travel agent include being asked to pay for the trip without a contract, transactions only being carried out over the phone and failure to disclose travel details in writing.

To avoid this happening, check with trusted websites like the Better Business Bureau for information on business ratings and reviews. Get the full itinerary, as well as details about cancellation policies, before paying and booking the trip.

As always, read the fine print and double check with your hotels and airlines to confirm everything is booked with the correct dates.

Be suspicious when it comes to free or deeply discounted travel, TDCI said. These sorts of scams are commonly found on social media with friends sharing posts for a chance to win free flights or trips. Be cautions as consumers can receive telephone calls or emails claiming that the consumer has won a free trip.

Out-of-the-blue or advertised offers to pay for $400 for a trip valued at $4,000 could be a scam.

If you want to share a social media giveaway, check out the account beforehand. If it's claiming to be a well-known company, but has only one or two posts, it's likely a scam.

If you're contacted on social media, by phone or by email with free travel offers but you need to pay a fee or hand over personal or account information, it is a scam. TDCI said do not respond, click links or hand over any money or personal information.

Report such offers to the Federal Trade Commission, and if you believe a giveaway is being hosted by a fake account, report the account to the social media site.

To avoid scams related to vacation rentals, be wary of the price and check reviews on the rental property.

If the price seems too good to be true, it could be a scam. Scammers can use pictures from other sites and mislead consumers about where they will be staying. For example, the listing could advertise ocean views and come with photos, but you may end up staying three blocks from the beach.

Check reviews from previous stays to see what other consumers have to say.

Look up the address to verify where the rental property is located and that it matches up with what is advertised.

If details about the rental are vague and the property owner is reluctant to or refuses to give more details, consider looking for other options.

When deciding what payment options to use, credit card companies provide more fraud protection than any other payment methods, TDCI said.

For more tips on how to have a scam-free summer, visit Consumer Affairs