While those in the Midwest, East and North may not believe me — it continues to snow and sleet in many places — summer is quickly approaching. Every season has its frauds; summer is no different.
Here’s just a few of the scams we see peak along with the temperatures:
1. Vacation Rental Scams: Want to escape the heat? Consider a vacation rental — but not before you do your homework. Reports abound of dozens of families showing up at the same lakefront cottage at the same time.
Each has the same “rental agreement” in hand along with instructions for finding the non-existent key to a locked home. Each responded to an ad, usually in Craigslist, and prepaid for their one- to two-week rental.
In most cases, the home was vacant, occasionally it had a “For Sale” sign on it, although once in awhile it was occupied by its lawful owners or renters. Rarely if ever do we hear of a happy ending to this one.
2. Car air-conditioning repair. The most common real reason a car air conditioner stops working is that it’s in need of freon, the cooling agent used in most systems. While the freon loss may possibly be a leak, it’s more often than not just low on pressure or needs changing.
There is BIG money to be made by telling a sweating car owner that s/he needs an $800 repair when the actuality is that less than $100 will fix the problem. And, yup, being blonde and not looking all too brilliant, one foreign-tongued fraud monger tried the scam on me. Bad move.
3. Home air-conditioning repair. Same thing! Protect yourself by dealing with licensed contractors, getting a second opinion (and maybe even a third), and obtaining recommendations from trusted friends in the community. Most legit companies will accept a credit card payment — which adds another layer of protection for you in the case of a scam.
4. Cruise or Condo deals that are just too good to be true. Not to sound like a broken record, but “there ain’t so such thing as a free lunch.” Your $229 luxury unit ISN’T. Your $179 cruise ISN’T. And your FREE (fill in the blank) ISN’T.
5. Pest Control: The dry heat does indeed bring out all forms of six-, 10- or 28-legged creatures. They’re thirsty. Before you sign on the dotted line, know WHO you are dealing with (licensing, community reputation, etc.), what (exactly) you are signing, and what the guarantees are. (unscrupulous traveling bands of thieves are not above a pre-dawn spraying of sugar water on visible outside surfaces.)
In short, don’t just be careful and exercise caution in the summer — do it year round. It’s a sad commentary that half the world is out to screw you and the other half is being straight and honest. It’s sadder still that you must somehow learn to tell the difference.
Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.