By Curtis Bailey, Attorney at Law
(In this article I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Curtis Bailey. He is an elder law and estate planning attorney who has a similar dedication to scam and fraud prevention. Curtis and I, along with financial advisor Lisa Anglin, are forming The Senior Scam Response Team to pool our knowledge and resources to even more effectively serve seniors, their families and caregivers, and professionals in eldercare as we all work together to prevent scams and frauds. Watch for more articles from Curtis, Lisa, and me in the months ahead, and let me know if there are specific topics you would like us to cover. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and Curtis at email@example.com)
Jim and Amy are so excited!! This recently retired couple is planning to take a month long trip to the Caribbean. Jim worked his entire career at the local steel mill and Amy taught for 25 years at the local high school. They raised 3 children who were very active in sports and the entire family was very involved in their church. Jim and Amy, now in their late 60s, have been saving for the day they could take a trip of a lifetime.
Amy has been researching options on the internet to rent a villa for the month they plan to be away. She has discovered a website, RentalFinder.com, advertising free transportation from the airport to their villa, free laundry service, and 25% off a rental of more than 2 weeks. This is by far the best deal she has found and called the “manager” listed on the website. The man who answered confirmed the details and asked Amy to wire $5,000 for the rental deposit. Amy wired the money and received a confirmation email with a copy of the rental agreement.
It is now two weeks before departure and Amy is becoming concerned. She has returned to the website multiple times to check on details and show her friends photos of the property, but the website has mysteriously disappeared. She has called the contact number multiple times, but the line has always been busy. Amy mentioned this situation to her oldest son, Michael, who did some research of his own and found that the rental company has never existed.
Unfortunately, Amy was victimized by an increasingly common travel scam. An individual finds a legitimate vacation rental listing on the internet and sends an email to the owner to check availability. A scammer intercepts the email and contacts the traveler posing as the property owner. When the traveler wires money to the scammer, it is often lost forever.
What is the best way to avoid this kind of scam? First, always maintain a “critical eye” on deals you find on the internet. The phrase “Trust, but verify” applies here. Always check as many of the details as you possibly can. There are a variety of resources on the internet to verify the address of the rental property or to see if the company is a reputable one. Take the time to do some homework before you commit to anything.
Second, never ever ever….and I say again, never wire money. That same advice goes for using your debit card. Once you wire money or use your debit card, it is effectively gone. The safer course of action is to use your credit card. There are certain protections available to you by using a credit card that are simply not open to you if you send cash or use a debit card (which is the same as sending cash).
Do not let the scammers ruin your trip of a lifetime! Always be vigilant and never wire money or send cash and you will be telling all of your friends and family about the wonderful vacation you enjoyed.