via Consumer watch: Avoid being a target during summer travel, clarionledger.com
As we hit the highways, byways and flyways this summer, there are numerous opportunities to lose our hard-earned money, either by making bad decisions on our own, or by the wrongdoing of others. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans will be traveling this summer. (That’s up slightly from a year ago.)
That’s good news for industries whose fortunes are travel-related, but it also means that more of us will be out of our normal surroundings, and thus more prone to make mistakes or become victims of crime. So here are a few things to remember as you hit the road (some of these courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Action Handbook):
- Don’t buy gas additives that claim to make fuel last longer. Even though gas prices go up in the summer, the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t found any product that significantly improves gas mileage, and some could damage a car’s engine or increase exhaust emissions.
- Interested in a summer concert or festival? If you buy tickets from a major vendor, remember that surcharges and additional fees may be tacked onto the listed price. Some venues require the same credit card used to purchase tickets be presented when the tickets are picked up, so if you’re buying tickets for someone as a gift, they may have difficulty getting them at will-call.
- When renting a beach or lake house for vacation, make sure the property actually exists. (Remember that movie, Summer Rental?) Do your homework before paying— check out the owner or rental company, consult maps and read the lease carefully. Pay with an online payment service or a credit card so you can dispute the charges if something goes wrong.
- When flying, make sure you’re aware of the airline’s baggage charges and their policy when it comes to bumping passengers. A lot of airlines “bump” depending on how late you checked in, so check in as soon as you can. Also, be aware of baggage weight limits; these are a lucrative source of income for airlines, and you could pay handsomely for overweight bags or too many bags.
- Protect your mobile devices. Since most of us have at least one cellphone and/or tablet with us most of the time, these are often targets for thieves. So before you leave on your trip, be sure your device is password-protected with a robust password and that it’s set to go to sleep or lock quickly after using it. Thieves know that an unprotected device can be a gold mine.
- Be careful of Wi-Fi “imposter” accounts. Scammers will often set up fake wireless hotspots near a hotel or airport. By using a network with a name that sounds plausible (“Holiday Inn free wifi”, for example), they can lure you into thinking it’s a free account for guests. But once you grant access from your device, they can steal your information. Before you accept a wifi connection, verify it with staff.
- Don’t make crooks’ jobs any easier. In crowded situations, pickpockets and purse thieves can operate with abandon. Teach your family to practice situational awareness, being aware of who’s around you. And if your wallet or purse is stolen, do you know exactly what’s been taken? It’s a good idea to keep a list of all the cards, money and documents so you can file an accurate report, but also so you can call immediately and cancel credit and debit cards. And before you leave your car, make sure valuables are out of sight.