Spring season brings out scammers

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COLUMBIA - Spring break is right around the corner, but it is bringing more than glowing tans and sandy beaches.

Scammers tend to prey on their victims right before and during spring break season. Mike Harrison, the regional director of the mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau, said the scams tend to target older students and their family members.

Harrison said there are two very common scams this time of year. One targets those who waited until last minute to purchase their spring break packages; The other targets the family members of the students on spring break.

"As a parent or a grandparent you'll get a call at home, a frantic phone call from someone posing as your son or daughter or as your grandson or granddaughter" Harrison said. "What they'll tell you is that they've been arrested or they've been in a bad accident, they're in the hospital and that they need your help for bail money or hospital bills, anything along those lines."

Harrison said the scammers will ask the parents or grandparents to wire the money or to use the green dot money pack. The green dot money packs are preloaded debit cards found at many stores, like Walmart.

If the scammer isn't taking advantage of families, they might scam students trying to find budget-friendly deals right before spring break. The scams usually include all-inclusive deals, making a deal seem to good to be true. Harrison said it is very important to do your homework and research your deal thoroughly.

"A few folks, they wait until the last minute, try and find the last minute deals," Harrison said. "So we have some tips and things that we recommend before the head out on the road. One of the first that we recommend that students do is to do their homework and find a reputable travel agent or a reputable travel site that they're going to use. You're can ask for referrals from families and friends, but they can also go to our website at BBB.org for a free business review, and that's going to give them information on a company before doing business with them."

Harrison said there is a preferred way to pay for spring break deals.

"Pay with a credit card," Harrison said. "We recommend doing that as well because you have certain protections in place. So, in case that happens to you, you can dispute the charges that way. So it's a great way to pay for that, don't pay for it up front.

If you have been scammed, Harrison recommends doing the following:

  • Call the credit card company with details and explain the situation
  • Call the Better Business Bureau to file a report
  • Call the local police in your hometown and in the location of the vacation
Harrison said he hasn't heard of any scams reported in the mid-Missouri area yet, but he always urges people the be extra cautious during this time of the year.