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Watch out for summer scams

It’s summer, so that means many people will begin planning vacations, home improvement projects and other activities.

Unfortunately, when the weather heats up, scammers also step up their game in hopes of defrauding people out of their hard-earned money.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently warned Ohioans of some popular scams. Watch out for these common tactics and don’t be a victim.

• Rental scams: Con artists lift listing information from legitimate real estate websites and repost pictures of houses or apartments as rentals on Craigslist or other websites. When potential renters respond to their ads, scammers tell them to wire a down payment of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to secure the rental. After sending money, however, the renter finds out that the house or apartment was for sale by someone else, not for rent, and that the online rental ad was bogus.

• Travel scams: Consumers receive an offer for a “free” vacation, but they later find out that they must pay upfront fees or listen to a sales presentation to receive the offer. In Ohio, important exclusions and limitations of an offer must be clearly disclosed in ads, and consumers shouldn’t have to pay to receive a free prize.

• Door-to-door home repair scams: During summer months, traveling contractors go door-to-door offering roof repairs, tree trimming, and other home improvement services, especially after storms. They take large down payments, often via cash or check, and then leave after doing little or no work. To avoid scams, consumers should be wary of door-to-door sellers who fail to notify them of their three-day right to cancel under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act, and those who demand large down payments, such as half or more of the total cost, before any works begins.

• Charitable solicitation scams: Scammers may invent phony charities or illegally solicit donations on behalf of legitimate organizations, while keeping the money for themselves. Some set up tables outside stores or shopping malls, or at fairs, festivals, and other popular events posing as a legitimate operation. Before making a charitable donation, conduct some basic research. Ask how the money will be used, do an Internet search of the organization’s name, determine if the charity is registered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, and find out whether it has tax-exempt status with the IRS.