Millions of US students and their families have looked forward to a fun-in-the-sun vacation for months now. However, with the Coronavirus outbreak declared a worldwide pandemic, most have either postponed trips or put them off entirely.
The socially responsible will most likely stay home alongside their families, but some might find it difficult to remain in place. A few will fight the odds and join their group for myriad outdoor activities or travel on the much-anticipated Spring Break.
We’ve seen the bogus websites and so-called resellers of medical equipment and cleaning or sanitation products that have flooded the Internet. But let’s stop for a second and think about the hidden dangers of travelling or having to quarantine yourself in an area far from home.
Not to further burden your already busy schedule as you try to keep you and your loved ones safe, but awareness of the rising threat of spring break scams is required.
Spring break vacation scams and bogus property rentals
In case you’re planning some time in the sun alongside your family or friends, keep an eye out for scammers who create false ads or websites proposing a week far from hustle and bustle of the city.
Cyber criminals are known for scraping data from the web and, in this case, they might gather street addresses and photos of properties available for rent from other websites. They can also re-list estates and homes that are not actually for rent.
- Be suspicious of below-market rates for rentals or 50% discount offers.
- Scammers may pose as the owner or booking agency, or they can even use a known online service provider for vacation rentals. Even homeowners can find their properties listed without their knowledge.
- Don’t browse through suspicious websites or access any limited-time offer you receive in your Inbox.
- Pay attention to the payment method. If you’re receiving a link asking you to pay in Bitcoin or even wire the money, look for a booking elsewhere.
Spring break’s not cancelled for cyber criminals
Scammers and cyber criminals do their homework. They are on top of all the comings and goings on social media, and they keep track of changes taking place worldwide. As such, we expect an increase in swindles that focus on the health crisis that has fallen upon us. What should you expect?
- Scammers may try to fool you or an unsuspecting family member to wire money, or send goods or vouchers to a child or grandchild who is either on vacation or not able to get back home due to last-minute changes in their schedule.
- Criminals impersonating a family member may take advantage of the recent Coronavirus outbreak and either call, text or email you.
- They will blame a bad connection for the call static and pretend an urgent situation arose while travelling.
- On top of medical problems, criminals may also refer to traffic accidents and legal troubles in their schemes.
Don’t let your guard down, and be aware of the red flags:
- Hidden phone numbers or unknown caller IDs
- Suspicious messages received via SMS or other social media platform
- Emails tagged urgent that seem to be from a family member
If you know that your child or loved one is travelling, and received a distress message, take a deep breath and analyze the situation before wiring money or sending any goods. Try contacting your family member to avoid becoming another victim of scammers. Your time and money should be focused on the wellbeing of your household, and not wasted for the gain of fraudsters. Stay Safe!