Beware of fake Surf schools, There are a lot of scammers out there. You have to watch out for them and don’t be fooled even by a slick webpage. They may have no insurance, be unsafe, unpermitted, and have to sneak around. Also be very careful of giving away your credit card and personal info too, fake instructors and schools can easily rip you off without even meeting you. Sadly fake surf schools and related scams are on the rise.
Hawaii is famous for Surf and Tourists:
Hawaii is famous for Surf, and so as a result it also has more fake and scam surf lessons than anywhere else in the world (*except Brazil maybe). Don’t be a gullible tourist, watch out for scammers. Try to ensure you are getting the genuine activity from a legitimate operator.
More Info About Scam Schools:
If in any doubt, Don’t trust them with your money, or with your safety, they have no insurance (and they could even sue you). Be careful even when dealing on the phone. Don’t tell them your Name, Hotel, or Room Number. They could misuse your CC info and steal your identity. They often have Unmarked vans because they are “unpermitted & illegal”. They may ask to meet at “roadside surf-spots” (unsafe, incognito, undisclosed) to hide from the authorities. Beware of Activities that ask you to pay cash when you get there.
RED FLAGS – Cash Sales:
Keep in mind that it is illegal for any legitimate business to take cash at any public park, State or County beach. With a few exceptions, like brick and mortar concession/shops etc.
Don’t Get Scammed on vacation:
People on vacation are easy victims to a variety of scams, they do unusual activities, and they do not know the local customs or culture. Sadly scams are on the rise, and crooks are getting smarter and sneakier. As a rule if you wouldn’t give your Credit Card information via phone at home, then maybe you should be wary of doing so on vacation. Never tell anyone your hotel, room number, and your full name, as they can do any number of hotel fraud scams.
Credit Card Scams:
Credit cards used on vacation are convenient; however they are also the targets of Credit Card scams and Identity thefts. Whenever you give your Card number, CVC number, full name, phone number, or Billing Zip code, you have virtually unlocked your credit card for anyone with that info to abuse.
Scammers target what you want:
Scammers are great at positioning themselves on the places and things that people want most. In Hawaii it is the Tours and Activities that get targeted most. Activities and Tours are not something that you can hold in your hand or inspect closely beforehand. Fake Activity Agents and Scammers alike can easily tell you some story, and then hand you a fake ticket for your activity, in exchange for your information and/or your money. Sadly too often people show up to a fake location, or to an activity that doesn’t have their booking.
How to Spot Illegal Scam Surf School:
They often have No Biz Address, No Owner Names, No permits, No Permanent Location, Undisclosed surf spots. If they advertise “getting away from the crowds”, as it is another way of saying they are not allowed at the best/most popular spots (because they are illegal and unpermitted). Only contact is via Email, No office or street address. Lack of real Business name or corporate name. They are using weird credit card services like “Paypal” or “Venmo” to get your money. Never give your Credit Card info by Email, or give it on the Phone, these can be scams. Beware if they have a different business name from the one you booked with. Beware if they say they are “Sub-contractors” of another school, that is a fraud scam. There is no such thing as a subcontract surf-instructor, or sub-school.
Some Scams pose as Charity or Clubs:
If you are paying for an activity it is a business transaction. So if the activity provider asks you for a “donation”, it is usually a sign that they are scamming the system. A charity provides a service for free. But when a charity is “fundraising for money” they need a business permit just like any other business. Any activity you pay for, or make a prescribed donation to, is operating as a business, whether they claim to be a charity/club or not.
How to easily spot a legitimate legal Surf School:
All legal operators will Have County and State Permits on display, and they will have clearly marked vans, permits on display on their vans, and real instructors always wear clearly marked “instructor” rashguards with the “school name”. You can always ask the State or County for a list of legitimate operators. Legit operators are always happy to prove their legitimacy and show you their permits and other credentials.
* If you think you have been scammed contact your CC company and bank immediately.
* If you think you have uncovered a fake school or instructor report it to the County (parks dept) and State (dobor) authorities.