A once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse circles closer and closer as August 21 draws near, but with the excitement comes scam artists ready to pounce.
Kelvin Collins with the Better Business Bureau join the News 3 Midday Community Watch to remind everyone not to be fooled by scammers who will try to sell you things like fake eclipse glasses, events, bus rides, accommodations, and much more.
“What everyone needs to remember is, scam artists watch the news. They know when a big event like this is coming up and they’re ready for it,” Collins says.
Here are just a few of the scams you should look out for as you turn your sights to the upcoming total solar 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% of the sun’s rays, solar filter glasses block more than 99.99%. Unfortunately, many of the solar glasses available online may be counterfeit or do not meet safety specifications. Your best bet is to stick with a brand whose glasses are certified by NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS). A list of reputable vendors from AAS can be found here.
If you are looking for a place to stay during the eclipse, be careful if you are 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.
Cities across the path of totality are holding eclipse festivals with both 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 on many events here.
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 related to the eclipse, you can go to BBB.org to open a complaint or report it to BBB Scam Tracker.