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Consumer Tips: Don’t let eclipse blind you to scams

Posted: August 16, 2017 - 1:10am

We are mere days from the solar eclipse, which will be visible to all of North America. The "path of totality" will stretch through 13 states, from Oregon to South Carolina. In the center of that 70-mile wide path, the total eclipse will last from 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Outside of this path, observers will see a partial eclipse.

Big events also mean big opportunities for scammers and unscrupulous businesses. With a rare event like this, it is important to plan carefully and to trust your instincts. Here are some things to be wary of while you get ready for the eclipse.

Counterfeit eclipse glasses

To view the solar eclipse directly without damage to your eyes, you need special solar filter glasses. These are much more powerful than sunglasses. While sunglasses only block about 50 percent of the sun's rays, solar filter glasses block over 99.99 percent. Unfortunately, many solar glasses available online may be counterfeit or do not meet safety specifications. Your best bet is to stick with a brand certified by NASA and the American Astronomical Society. A list of reputable vendors can be found by visiting, https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

Accommodation scams

If you're looking for a place to stay during the eclipse, be careful if you're booking through a site like Airbnb, VRBO, or Craigslist. Make sure to correspond within the website or app and not through other means. Always double check that a listing is on the real website and emails are coming from official addresses. Using a credit card offers the best fraud protection. Don't deal with anyone who asks for payment outside of the platform's approved options.

Event scams

Cities across the path of totality are holding eclipse festivals with free events and VIP viewing parties. Scammers may set up fake events or charge people for access to free public parties. Tips for avoiding summer festival scams can also help you separate real eclipse events from fake ones. These tips can be found at BBB.org. NASA also has information at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

Bus scams

Traffic will likely be heavy on any road between a major city and the eclipse path. A bus might sound like great option, but be careful you don't make a reservation only to end up without transportation.

Make sure you deal directly with a bus or limo company to avoid scammers using a legitimate business as a front. Go to BBB.org to look for accredited businesses and read reviews and complaints before you book.

This month's eclipse may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a rare astronomical event right in your backyard. That urgency and unique opportunity are what can make scams successful. Remember to do your research and always trust your instincts - if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are the victim of a scam or other unscrupulous business practice, you can go to BBB.org to open a complaint or report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit BBB.org.

 

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