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Local Officials Warn About Possible Increase In Vacation Scams

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - The Pinellas County Consumer Protection Department is warning people to keep an eye out for more scams now more than ever, especially scams related to vacations.

Officials say Coronavirus related scams are very popular right now, but you may see more scams offering free vacations or vacation rentals as more people start to travel again.

Rob Shaw, Clearwater Police spokesperson, says "Scammers take advantage of anything and everything and anyone and everyone that they can."

Anna Marie Millett, Pinellas County Consumer Protection Investigator, says "Scammers are always looking for an opportunity scam consumers such as you and me and the pandemic was no different."

Millett says when it comes to scams, the last year has been pretty busy.

"With the stimulus checks, they were offering to contact you to assist with direct deposits, just give your bank account information and they'll set that up," said Millett.

She says scams about vaccines were also very popular in the last few months, but now there's another type of scam to keep an eye out for.

"We're starting to get vaccinated, we want to get out of the house, we want to travel, and maybe sending solicitations for free trips or offers of such," said Millett.

"We try to return to a sense of normalcy after the pandemic, so people are eager to go to the beach, they are eager to stay in a condo again and hotels again, but we don't want them to be so eager that they lose their skepticism," said Shaw.

Shaw says you may start seeing scams about free or discounted vacation rentals.

"If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is," said Shaw.

Millett says there are some signs to see if an offer is a scam.

"If the contact is unsolicited. If you did not initiate it. It can ask for some kind of money or we have to give our personal information to sign up or register," said Millett.

She says if you're unsure about an offer, contact an expert to take a look at it.

"As exciting as it is to get a free vacation, especially this time of year, you have to take your time, research it and make sure it is legitimate before you proceed," said Millett.

If you think you are being scammed, you can call your local consumer protection department or law enforcement agency.

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