Scam Free Summer

Hello, summer! It’s the season of flip-flops and ice pops, of sun-drenched afternoons and lazy days at the beach. And, unfortunately, summertime is also prime time for scammers. People are more relaxed, schedules are looser and vacationers are traveling in unfamiliar locations. All of this can lead people to let their guard down during the summer, and the scammers know it. 

Don’t get scammed this summer! Follow these tips to stay safe. 

1. Never pay for a “prize” vacation

So you won an all-expense-paid trip to Aruba? Or a vacay in a remote French chalet? Sounds like a dream come true, but if you follow through, you’ll be caught up in a nightmare.  If you’re asked to pay even a small fee to claim a free vacation prize, you’re looking at a scam. A legitimate company will never ask winners to pay a fee for a prize.

2. Use a credit card when traveling

A credit card will offer you the most protection in case something goes wrong. You’ll be able to dispute unauthorized charges, and in most cases, reclaim your lost funds.

3. Ignore celebrity messages

Celebrities might have a direct line with the public through their social media platforms, but don’t believe a private message appearing to be from your favorite movie star, singer or athlete. A direct message from a celeb asking for money for a charity, or claiming you’ve won a prize, but need to pay a processing fee, is a scam.

4. Check for skimmers at the pump

If you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road this summer, and pumping gas in unfamiliar places, it’s a good idea to check the card reader for skimmers before going ahead with your transaction. A card skimmer will read your credit or debit card information, enabling a scammer to empty your accounts. Here’s how to check for a skimmer on a card reader:

  • Try to wiggle the card reader; this should dislodge a skimmer if there is one. 
  • Check the keypad to see if it looks newer than the rest of the card reader.
  • Touch the surface of the keypad to see if it’s raised.

5. Research vacation rentals carefully before booking

With so many vacationers now booking stays at private homes instead of hotels, scamming travelers is easy. All it takes is a few fake photos, a bogus address, and you’ve got yourself a fake vacation rental. In other vacation rental scams, scammers will falsely advertise a rental as a beachfront property when it’s not, claim that it’s larger or more up-to-date than it is or promise amenities that are missing when you arrive. 

Don’t get scammed! Before booking a vacation rental, read the reviews left by previous guests. If there aren’t any, or they don’t sound authentic, you’re likely looking at a scam. You can also look up the address of the rental to see if it in fact exists and if the location matches the description in the listing. As another precaution, you can ask the owner for more details about the property just to see their reaction; if they sound vague or uneasy, it’s likely a scam. Finally, as mentioned above, use a credit card to pay for the stay so you can dispute the charges if it ends up being a scam.

6. Vet potential contractors well

Contractors who go from door-to-door looking for work are a fairly common summertime sight. Unfortunately, though, some of these “contractors” are actually scammers who are only looking to con innocent homeowners out of their money. They’ll deliver shoddy work at an inflated price, go AWOL once a down payment on the job’s been made or do more harm than good with their “home improvement” work.

It’s best to only hire contractors whom you’ve personally reached out to instead of waiting for one to come knocking on your door. Also, before hiring, thoroughly research a potential contractor, asking for contact info of previous clients, checking out their online presence and looking up the business on the BBB website. Finally, it’s best not to agree to pay more than a third of the total cost of a job before the work commences. Even then, only pay when you see the materials arrive. 

Don’t let summertime turn into scam-time. Stay alert, follow the tips outlined above, and stay safe!

Your Turn: What are your tips for a scam-free summer? Share them with us in the comments. 

Best Vehicles for Summer

The open road and warm weather form a fantastic duo

The warmer weather is here, which can only mean one thing: summer vacation road trips! Whether you’re going out with friends or with the whole family, having the right vehicle can make all the difference.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro ConvertibleCamaro_Featured
What’s better than driving down the highway in an American icon that won’t break the bank? The 2015 Camaro Convertible is the epitome of affordable performance and it starts at an MSRP of $23,705. Power comes from a 323 hp V6 engine, or an available V8 engine that bumps the power up to 426 horses. For those who demand even more, the Camaro ZL1 uses a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 for a pavement torching 580 horsepower. A nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system, Chevrolet MyLink and the safety and security of OnStar vehicle telematics are all on hand to keep you connected. AutoTrader added, “For those interested in big off-the-line acceleration and burnout potential combined with sharp handling skills and respectable fuel economy, the 2015 Camaro delivers it all. It almost sounds too good to be true.”

2015 Jeep Wrangler
The Jeep Wrangler is among the most recognized vehicles on the road today and its fan base is a rabid one with good reason. Recent accolades include being named to KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $25,000,” who also gave it a “Best Resale Value Award.”

Starting at an MSRP of $22,795, the 2015 Wrangler adds even more equipment including an improved sound system, and a new toolkit to help remove the roof, doors and bumper, making the Wrangler the ultimate off-road companion. Just think of the memories you’ll make when roads aren’t your boundary. If you need more room, the four-door Wrangler Unlimited is also available.

“With roots going all the way back to the Willy’s ‘Jeep’ used during WWII, the iconic Jeep Wrangler is one of the purest and most capable SUVs on the market today,” according to Left Lane News.

2015 Chrysler 300
Sitting in the lap of luxury300_Featured is a great way to make any trip more memorable, and the 300 is a great choice with stand out design, impressive performance, solid fuel efficiency and heaps of luxury amenities. Aside from the most powerful V6 engine in its class and an available V8 engine that pushes over 360 horsepower and nearly 400 lb/ft of torque, the 300 is available with features like Poltrona Frau leather, the Uconnect infotainment system with the largest touchscreen in its class and an incredible 19-speaker audio system by harman/kardon. There are also over 80 safety and security features.

Cars.com noted, “The 2015 Chrysler 300’s attention-grabbing styling, elegant interior and composed road manners convey an overall classiness that rivals other large sedans.”

2015 Kia Sedona
The Sedona is all-new for 2015 and it features a design like nothing else in the segment, sporting a blend of crossover and minivan. A recent winner of Motor Trend’s “Minivan Big Test” where the Sedona toppled the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Town & Country. The Sedona was also named the 2015 AutoBytel Van/Minivan of the Year. The newest Sedona sports some of the most impressive features you can find in a minivan including first-class lounge seating, a heated steering wheel, UVO infotainment system and an Infinity audio system. You’ll also find seating for up to eight passengers, and up to 142 cubic feet of cargo capacity, so even a cross-country road trip with the family is attainable.

Regardless of what you choose, the right financing is only a phone call away. Or simply stop by and let us get you on your way to making memories this summer.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Green Ways to Stay Cool in the Summer

Relief from the heat can come in many forms

Operating an air conditionerKeepCool_featured is an $11 billion a year venture for Americans. What’s more, those a/c units release about 100 million tons of carbon monoxide into the air annually — two tons for each home using one, according to WebMD. You can, however, reduce your own carbon footprint while staying cooler this summer, and save some money on electricity costs while you’re at it.

Reducing body heat
“The lowest-tech ways to keep cool this summer start with your own body,” said Camille Peri in a WebMD feature provided in collaboration with Healthy Child Healthy World.

Wear clothes made from natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp and linen, which breathe better than synthetic fibers and naturally wick away moisture. Dine on ‘cool,’ light meals like salads and sandwiches instead of protein-rich meals that warm up the body, not to mention the oven or the stove, working against your goal. Use cool water to decrease your body temperature by soaking your feet in a tub of cold water, wearing a wet bandana or taking a cool shower. A spray bottle of cold water to spritz yourself throughout the day is a good idea, as well.

Furthermore, remember that warm air rises; therefore, the basement or ground floor is the coolest story of your home or building. Plan to spend most of your time there, or embark on trips to air-conditioned public places like the mall or the library.

In-home techniques
If you ever plan to start caring about your home’s décor, now would be the time. Use window coverings to your advantage by keeping your dark-colored curtains or shades pulled throughout the heat of the day, as that can block up to 80 percent of solar heat. Appliances inside the home such as the aforementioned stove add to the internal heat and energy consumption of your household, so utilize microwaves or toaster-ovens, which use up to two-thirds less energy.

Also, consider changing your light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs or halogen infrareds. Lastly, use fans inside the home, especially when it starts to cool down in the evening. Portable fans placed in front of an open window can bring that cool air inside, and a ceiling fan will help circulate it. Even if you have an air conditioner, turn on your ceiling fans to help make the room feel cooler.

Outside the home
“Shading from the inside with curtains and blinds is a good first step, but shading from the outside can be even better,” Peri said.

One of the least expensive ways to do so is to install awnings. The Department of Energy estimates that awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the home by as much as 77 percent. Woven mesh solar, solar control windows, and reflective window film are some additional, yet more costly options.

Maintaining your air conditioner
If you do opt to use an a/c unit, keep the filter clean so airflow is not limited and the appliance lasts longer. Filters should be cleaned or replaced every month or so, depending on usage. Similarly, make sure the air conditioner gets a tune-up from a professional every few years to make sure it’s still running efficiently. Install a programmable thermostat to turn on right before you come home, and set it a bit higher than normal for when you’re home. A few degrees make a big difference, in terms of energy, but your body won’t notice the difference. Finally, a shaded air conditioner uses up to 10 percent less energy to operate, so don’t place your central a/c in direct sunlight.

Going into a cool room on a hot day is among the most enjoyable feelings you can experience. Follow these helpful suggestions and make this summer your best yet.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.