BBB: Danielle Kane

Danielle Kane

Going back to school will look different this year, but parents are still trying to prepare. Unfortunately, with supplies low and demand high amid COVID-19, people are shopping with online retailers they have never shopped with before, which leads to monetary losses.

While many parents are faced with the difficult decision to send their children back to school or continue to home-school, both will require more prep work than usual. Typically, each year BBB puts out our regular warning on back-to-school shopping, but this year, the risks are much higher.

The National Retail Federation predicts back-to-school spending may reach a new record with parents spending an average of $789.49. That’s an increase of more than $90 over last year. The excess spending is driven by parents purchasing computers, tablets, and other big-ticket items for the home, particularly those that plan to home-school. Those are the items parents used to lean on schools to provide.

And scammers know it. Be careful where you’re purchasing these items from, as electronics are an extremely common product category that BBB sees fraudulently advertised online.

Also this year, across nearly every industry, we’re seeing a shortage of goods. COVID-19 has thrown off the global supply chain, meaning prices for common things like school clothes, electronics, and accessories will be higher. Spring and summer goods were shipped before the disruptions began, but as we know, the effects of the coronavirus shutdown have lingered longer than many predicted. Because factories around the world are idled, supply goes down, demand goes up and prices increase — but that doesn’t stop many consumers from bargain hunting online.

Consumers often search for the best deals on off-brand websites that don’t pan out. These shady retailers purposefully advertise popular items at too-good-to-be-true prices for products they never had and never intended on shipping. Leaving you, the consumer, out of money and without that back-to-school item.

According to Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, Oregonians already lost just under $40,000 to online shopping scams between March and August. Consumers have reported losing money when attempting buy everything from name brand clothing to educational supplies and online tutors.

The Federal Trade Commission has reported that Americans already lost $77.4 million due to COVID-19 fraud, and online shopping is one of the top categories for that report.

For this reason, BBB is encouraging shoppers to be extra vigilant this year. As you are shopping for your student, you may discover that the retailers you trusted and relied on in the past are out of many necessities. So, before turning to a new website or online retailer, do your research.

Here are other tips that can help you feel like an A+ parent:

  • Be wary of clickbait ads. These ads feature items that you may want or need based on your search history, using your cookies to get you to click. These clickbait ads exist to drive you to a different website and potentially steal your personal or banking information.
  • Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and identity theft.
  • Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards do not have the same protections as a credit card.
  • Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.
  • Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet, and smartphone. It is essential when you are entering and exiting lots of different websites.

For more tips on how to protect your money and your family, visit trust-bbb.org.

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