By Mark Kwapiszeski, PNC Financial Services, Head of Enterprise Fraud

While you’re on vacation, scammers are still at work and could put a damper on your summer fun. August is usually a time when we get to take a break from school and work. People are on the move, traveling and spending money on fun experiences with their friends and family. Making these plans can be hectic, and most people don’t include financial safety into their plans. You should.  It’s just so important to protect your personal and financial information during this busy time for leisure transactions, both online and while out on the road.

Case-in-point: summer concert ticket scams.

In the aftermath of COVID-19, we’ve seen live music and live events come roaring back. In recent months, there has been such a high demand for summer concert tickets, that some sales platforms have become overwhelmed and crashed. Those sold-out shows often lead to ticket resales, and that’s when scammers look for the right time to strike. Unwitting fans then spend hundreds on fake tickets only to be turned away at the gate.  Not only do they miss the opportunity to enjoy these shows, they may never see their money again.

Summer scammers don’t stop with concert tickets. If you are planning to venture out on a road trip to a beautiful short-term vacation rental, the journey could be fraught with fraudsters. Short-term vacation rental fraud generated more than $350 million in losses for renters and homeowners, according to a 2022 FBI Internet Crime report.1

Using reputable sites for booking and paying is a great way to avoid being literally left out in the cold when you arrive.

One of the more common places to fall victim to a fraudster while road tripping is at the gas pump. Thieves install card skimmers at gas stations and other unattended point of sale locations that are almost impossible to detect to an untrained eye. You insert your card and suddenly a criminal has information they need to commit criminal activity against you.  

So, what to do to make sure you and your loved ones are protected during the height of the season, both online and while on the road? First, be discerning and do your research before you make a purchase, always verifying the legitimacy of a person or website before processing a payment. Avoid using free online marketplace sites or navigating away from a rental listings page to make a payment.  Opt to buy concert tickets directly from the venue’s website, a certified reseller, or someone you know in the ‘real’ world.  The most important thing to remember when booking travel plans or buying event tickets is the age-old rule: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Fraudsters and scammers love someone who is stressed or who is in a hurry.  Having a well thought out and executed plan allows you to remain calm.  If you do find yourself in a stressful situation, don’t act without thinking first and be on the lookout for someone trying to increase the pressure by creating a higher sense of urgency. This is a classic tactic that scammers use to convince you to process a payment before you’ve had time to fully think through the validity of the situation.

While traveling, look for gas stations and pumps that have contactless readers.  The best way to avoid skimmers is to never insert your card in the first place.  Tapping your card at unattended locations is the best way to protect yourself.  If you don’t have a choice, at least cover the PIN pad while you enter your PIN, even if no one is around.  Your PIN is not able to be skimmed from the card, but the fraudsters often use a hidden camera to also steal your PIN. 

And empower your bank to help protect you. Contact your bank before you travel so they know where you are planning to make purchases but don’t post about your plans on social media. Thieves can use this information to determine when your home will be empty. Set up alerts with your bank so you can be notified when certain transactions take place. If you see something strange, try to lock your card through your mobile banking app, then call your bank as soon as you can. Remember, if your bank calls you, it is always appropriate to hang up and call them back on the number on the back of your card.  Also, ensure your bank has your mobile number and email, so they can alert you if they see suspicious activity on your accounts.

A little preparation and application of best practices will help reduce unnecessary stress that comes from being duped.

From all of us at PNC, have a great summer vacation and stay safe out there.

Mark Kwapiszeski serves as the Head of Enterprise Fraud for The PNC Financial Services Group, where he leads a team focused on helping prevent and detect fraud for the company and its customers.