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More common scams to watch out for in 2015

Scammers don’t take the holidays off.

Their attempts to steal your money or identity, or both, continue throughout the year, regardless of whether the calendar says it’s holiday time.

Accordingly, the Better Business Bureau reminds you to keep a watchful eye out for intruders who would slip into your wallet rather than down the chimney.

Here are three more of our most notable scams as we continue with our “12 Scams of Christmas” series.

Scam no. 6: Vacation rentals and timeshare scams

Both sides of vacation rental transactions frequently find themselves victimized by scammers — those who seek a vacation getaway spot and those who have a residence to rent. The scams have gotten to the point where some describe the situation as epidemic.

For folks looking for a place to spend a vacation, beware of online classifieds. Scammers will hijack legitimate listings and claim to be the contact person in an attempt to get advance payments from you. Arriving at the residence you believe you’ve rented, you’re informed that it is either not available or you may find out it doesn’t even exist.

Scammers who claim to be real estate agents with interested buyers rip off timeshare property owners. Typically they ask for a hefty fee for their services after providing what appear to be legitimate contracts, requesting that the money be wired to Mexico. More “unexpected costs” arise requiring more transfers until eventually the scam becomes obvious.

Renters and property owners are advised to only deal with reputable Realtors, travel agencies or vacation rental sites. Any request to wire money should be a red flag that a scam may be underway.

Scam no. 5: The one-ring phone scam

Crooks know that we all have a curiosity about who may be trying to call us. They count on the one-ring phone scam to pique that curiosity, hoping you will wonder who called you and then hung up after just one ring.

When you call the number back you are hit with a $19.95 international call fee, plus up to $9 a minute in charges. Frequently used area codes are 473, 809 and 284, from the Caribbean Islands and the British Virgin Isles.

If you make it a practice to return calls in order to find out whom it was, discontinue the practice. Some service providers like Sprint and AT&T will allow you to block international calls. You can always unblock them should you travel abroad and need the service.

Remember that you can also do an online search to find out where an area code is from.

Scam no. 4: The $9.84 credit card scam

Since early this year people have been reporting mysterious $9.84 charges on their credit card bills. This is a scam undertaken by crooks who count on you not checking your bill too carefully.

They have stolen your credit card number, along with many others, and are putting the small charges on with the expectation that consumers won’t notice. When you multiply that charge times the millions of others victims, it’s a huge amount of money being stolen from the unsuspecting.

Now that word is out, look for the possibility that they will vary the amount of money from the original $9.84.

The moral of the story is that you should carefully review your statements and report every unauthorized transaction. Then cancel your card and get a new one.

Once your account number is compromised, there is no limit on what scammers can do.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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