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A fake religious camp and 5 other summer scams
2012's most sweltering months are largely behind us — which may be good news for Americans swindled by unethical air-conditioner repairmen and travel agents
 
A man who claimed to be a pastor allegedly hoodwinked several families into thinking his non-existent summer camp was the real deal.
A man who claimed to be a pastor allegedly hoodwinked several families into thinking his non-existent summer camp was the real deal.
CC BY: Pat Hawks

"Welcome to Camp Crook!" says Christina Carrega at The New York Post. Several families in New York and New Jersey were out $1,000 each when they found out that a summer camp they had enrolled their kids in was bogus. The alleged con man, Dejean Gathers of Atlanta, Ga., listed seven locations for his Camp Vision Now, but families showed up at six of the locations to find "no sign of any organized activity, just other irate parents and their kids." (The seventh, in Brooklyn, had a makeshift group of three camp counselors.) The kicker? Gathers claimed on the camp's website to be a pastor. Unfortunately, fake day camps are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to summer schemes. Here, five other scams that have cropped up during the last few months:

1. The unnecessary AC repair job 
Thanks to "the extreme summer heat," we really count on our air conditioners, and scam artists know it, says Tennessee's The Mountain Press in an editorial. So beware shady operators "charging for unnecessary repair work." Some offer "free cleanings or tune-ups," hoping that they can subsequently pressure you to unnecessarily replace your whole AC unit, or at least replace a bunch of parts that they'll overcharge you for. That's why you should always ask for written statements, and get quotes from more than one repair company.

2. The electricity bill ruse 
"This appears to be the summer of ne'er-do-wells trying to take advantage of utility customers," says Thomas Content at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. To wit: Some alleged scammers in the Green Bay, Wis., area have pretended to be representatives of the utility company, and told air-conditioner-reliant customers that their electricity would be cut off if they didn't pay their bills upfront to these bogus collectors.

3. The vacation rental scam 
Scammers have used the popular classifieds site Craigslist to dupe would-be vacationers into renting vacation homes that are not actually available. At least two victims in Massachusetts' Martha's Vineyard say "they paid an online advertiser thousands of dollars to rent" a couple's home, only to find out from the couple that the house has never been for rent, says Sreven Myrick at The Martha's Vineyard Times. Now, some residents are anxiously wondering if "they may find visitors showing up at their door… expecting to move in for a week or two." 

4. The airline ticket fraud
"Holiday-makers are being duped into buying trips to fictitious locations, fake airline tickets, and cheap deals that cannot be honored," says Britain's This Is Money. The schemes typically involve websites "claiming to be authorized agents" that supposedly buy tickets on behalf of customers, "then claim the trip has been canceled and refuse to return their money." According to a Get Safe Online survey, about one in three travel customers fail to confirm the "authenticity of travel providers before handing over payment." 

5. The "mugged grandkid" trick
"Here's the scenario," says Barbara Diggs at Fox Business: "Grandpa gets an email from his grandkid, who claims to have been mugged while on vacation and desperately needs money." Gramps wires the money, but it ends up in the pocket of a scammer, who "hacked the grandkid's email account and lifted facts about the kid's life" to make the email's vacation details more believable. And it's not only older people who are targeted: You should probably talk to your supposedly stranded friend/relative before sending the money over.

Sources: Fox Business, The Martha's Vineyard TimesThe Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, The Mountain PressThe New York Post, This Is Money

 

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