Taylor Swift performs onstage during “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour” at SoFi Stadium on August 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California.
Kevin Winter/tas23 | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
To quote Taylor Swift, “It’s a cruel summer” — especially for some consumers falling prey to common scams.
Swift fans eager to buy tickets may have found they were duped. Summer vacationers may have found the rental listings they wanted were not legitimate. And borrowers hoping for student loan relief may have fallen prey to scams after the Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s broad federal student loan forgiveness plan.
Those are among the top schemes Visa has seen this summer as it works to monitor fraud, according to Paul Fabara, the company’s chief risk officer.
“A lot of it is related with the consumer trusting too much and not paying attention to what they’re clicking or saying yes to,” Fabara said.
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Visa has invested more than $10 billion in the past five years to thwart scams and employs about 1,000 professionals to monitor financial transaction risks.
“We have the opportunity to see what exactly is happening across the entire payment ecosystem,” while Visa’s algorithms can identify fraud by type, Fabara said.
Here are four of the prevalent schemes that have emerged this summer.
Fans were especially eager to see big-ticket acts like Beyonce and Taylor Swift as they toured this summer. And some fraudsters were ready to take advantage, offering up fakes that left fans without funds or a ticket.
Some launched their own ticket sale sites, with URLs going up live just hours before a sold-out event starts, claiming creative reasons as to why they have a surplus of tickets. Others may have posed as sellers, and managed to offer tickets on bona-fide ticket platforms.
“That is where they strike big,” Fabara said. “Consumers feel that urgency a few hours before the concert.”
The prevalence of the scams has led officials like California Attorney General Rob Bonta to issue warnings for consumers to be vigilant.
Vacationers who sought rentals or other services in popular destinations may have found themselves prey to fake listings. Such vacation scams meant travelers could find themselves out money as well as a place to stay.
Some scammers have even gone as far as forging company logos to look like a legitimate vacation rental site, according to Visa. On individual listings, the schemes can create profiles that combine attributes of real people, and therefore appear credible in the public domain, Fabara noted.
“But at the end of the day, those listings are fake listings, which puts consumers at risk,” he said.
The prevalence of these scams has also prompted attorneys general to issue warnings this season.
College students on the hunt for off-campus housing may find themselves prey to fake listings. More broadly, as rents have soared in some markets, apartment seekers hoping to find a deal may have found themselves susceptible to dupes.
Scammers are hoping apartment hunters will send money for application fees or a security deposit before they realize the listing isn’t legit.
Last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James and the Federal Trade Commission secured $1.6 million from online apartment search platform Roomster and its owners for defrauding millions of U.S. consumers with unverified apartment listings and fake reviews. New York is among six states suing the company alongside the FTC. Roomster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Looking for an apartment can be stressful, and the last thing renters need is to be scammed by fake reviews and apartments that might not even exist,” James said in a statement.
4. Student loan forgiveness scams
With federal student loan repayment set to begin in October, some debtors looking for an easy out may be susceptible to forgiveness scams. Often, scammers are fishing for personal details they can use to steal your identity.
While getting help from a private, unaffiliated debt relief company may not necessarily lead to fraud, “seeking out unverified services is a common path to a student loan forgiveness scam,” the Federal Student Aid Office has warned.
Common warning signs include aggressive advertising language, big promises and requests for log-in or other confidential personal information.
How to protect yourself from fraud
Tashdique Mehtaj Ahmed | Moment | Getty Images
While the summertime schemes have put consumers at risk, there are themes that should be on their radars throughout the year, according to Fabara.
For example, the holiday season tends to coincide with an uptick in e-commerce schemes, while tax season tends to prompt false promises of outsize refunds from organizations that promise to file your taxes on your behalf.
“A lot of it is common sense,” Fabara said of consumer fraud prevention.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your personal information to yourself. Do not share confidential information like your address, Social Security or credit card numbers unless you are certain the website or app is legitimate.
- Avoid clicking on unverified links. Some bad actors may use the name of legitimate businesses, but then take you to a website that has nothing to do with that business. Verify before entering any personal information that the site is legitimate. Better yet, avoid clicking on potentially suspicious links on social media and in emails and text messages.
- Watch for AI/deep fake imitations. Fraudsters may use AI to create deep fakes, whereby reputable public figures seemingly endorse a company’s products or services on social media. While you may be swayed into thinking it’s a legitimate endorsement, “the reality is that’s not the case,” Fabara said.
- Do your due diligence on vendors. Sources like the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission can provide background information on businesses, including whether there are consumer complaints against them. When seeking real estate deals, consumers should also perform searches to verify that key details about properties are accurate, according to Fabara. Verify the listing is in fact listed as available on real estate websites and not otherwise occupied. Also do a search for the address and make sure the photos match the property advertised online.
- Set up real-time purchase alerts. By monitoring your accounts on a real-time basis, you can more quickly find any potential fraudulent compromises, Fabara said. Using your credit card has more robust purchase protections than a debit card.
- Alert your financial institution if you see suspicious activity. While consumers may think of big-time purchases when it comes to fraud, often it starts with much smaller transactions of as little as $1, Fabara noted. By alerting your credit card company or other financial institution about even small unknown transactions, you can potentially save yourself further trouble.