Don’t be blind to eclipse scams


Attorney General DeWine Offers Consumers Tips for Purchasing Solar Eclipse Glasses

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine offered consumer protection tips ahead of the August 21 solar eclipse.

“Ohioans of all ages are intrigued by the upcoming solar eclipse, but safety needs to be a priority to avoid permanent eye damage,” said Attorney General DeWine. “We want consumers to be informed before buying solar eclipse glasses.”

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) warns that it has received reports of fake solar eclipse glasses being sold. These glasses do not properly filter the sun’s rays, and, in turn, may damage a person’s eyes. Previously, glasses with the seal of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) were considered safe. While all acceptable glasses are ISO certified, there is a chance that counterfeit glasses may also claim to be ISO certified.

Tips for consumers include:

  • Visit aas.org to find a reputable dealer. The AAS has a list available of all merchants and vendors that guarantee their glasses will block enough light during the eclipse event to prevent injury. All companies on this site sell products that have been certified safe by the authorities.
  • Call your local library. Over 2 million eclipse glasses were sent to local libraries for distribution and for eclipse viewing events. Call your local library to see if they have viewing events planned where glasses would be available, or click here to see if your library is a participating location.
  • If you’ve already obtained solar eclipse glasses, test them prior to the eclipse. According to the AAS, you shouldn’t be able to see anything except the sun itself with proper solar eclipse glasses. Be extremely cautious if you can see other lights or normal brightness through the glasses, especially if you’re not sure they were obtained through a reputable merchant or vendor. Also, inspect your glasses for pinholes or tears prior to use.
  • Do not use homemade products or ordinary sunglasses. Simply using a pair of sunglasses or stacking multiple pairs of glasses on top of one another will not protect your eyes from the danger of looking at the sun. Regardless of how dark the shades, the AAS says they will “transmit many thousands of times too much sunlight.”
  • Do not use a solar filter without first seeking advice from an astronomer. You may want to attach a filter to the front of your camera, binoculars, or telescope, but get expert advice before using them to view the solar eclipse.

Consumers who need help addressing a consumer problem or question should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.

Don’t Let the Eclipse Blind You to Scams

The solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 will be visible to all of North America. The “path of totality” where the total solar eclipse is visible 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% 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). Here is a list of reputable vendors from AAS.

Here are some additional tips for safe viewing:

  • Regular sunglasses, even very dark sunglasses, are not enough.
  • Warn children of the danger in viewing the eclipse without protective eye wear.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer – the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If the filters on your eclipse glasses are torn, scratched, punctured or coming loose from their cardboard or plastic frames, discard them.
  • If you are unable to get glasses, one way of indirectly observing the eclipse is by using a pinhole projector. NASA has instructions on how to do this, as well as files to print out and use, here.

Accommodation Scams

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.

There have been reports of travelers who booked hotels for the eclipse long in advance (before it was widely publicized) only to see their reservations canceled or moved to hotels far from viewing spots. Some of the original rooms are then offered again at a much higher rate. If you are traveling out of town for the eclipse and have a hotel booked, make sure you double-check your reservations before heading out.

Event Scams

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. These tips for avoiding summer festival scams can also help you separate real eclipse events from fake ones. NASA has information on many events here.

Bus Scams

Traffic will likely be very 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 file a complaint or leave a scam with BBB Scam Tracker.

For more information, follow your BBB on Facebook, Twitter, and at bbb.org.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.

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Staff Reports