We join our voice with the Better Business Bureau in cautioning consumers about scams as they prepare for the beginning of the school year.
The BBB has said that families should expect to spend more money than ever on back-to-school shopping, citing a National Retail Federation survey.
With that in mind, the BBB offers these pieces of advice when shopping for books, clothes, school supplies, backpacks or other essentials:
• Start your back-to-school shopping by creating a list. Jot down everything you need and stick to the list. Impulse buying can increase your overall total in a hurry. Then, shop your home before heading to the store. You may already have some of the items from last year. Why purchase the same things twice?
• Before purchasing that expensive laptop, tablet or dorm refrigerator, be sure to do your research. Research the brands, warranty, customer reviews and the prices at various stores to be sure you’re getting the best deal. Also, look up the retailer on BBB.org.
• Compare prices between different retail stores, save your coupons, sign up for email alerts and redeem any cash-back or rebate offers. This will help you get the best deals, saving you a nice chunk of dough.
• Ask for discounts. Many stores and software companies offer discounts to students that have either an .edu email address or a student ID. Even if you don’t see a discount advertised at the store, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
• Shop in bulk. Some teachers ask parents to buy bulk items for the entire classroom to use throughout the year. Talk with other parents about what they’re getting and see if you can all split the cost.
• Know the return policies and save your receipts. Kids can be fickle. They can love a new shirt yesterday but hate it today. Ask about return policies before making your purchase. Be sure to save your receipts just in case you have to return the item later.
And with more purchases than ever taking place online, the BBB cautions:
• When shopping from an online website the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” stands for secure, that way you know your information is being protected.
• Do your research. An unknown website may offer a similar product at a lower price. The lowest price isn’t always the best route. Check for user reviews and badges for consumer protection agencies.
• Be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
• Be extremely wary of any website or store that asks for your child’s personal information in order to access special deals.
• If you’re buying supplies through a website such as Craigslist, make sure you don’t wire money to someone you’ve not met. Use PayPal if possible, but if you are using cash, make sure you meet in a public place and bring a friend.
• If you use Facebook, you know banner ads are all over the place and many ads are even catered to what you like. Some of them, however, are just click bait ads to drive you to a different website where you could potentially be asked to input personal information. Take note of the ad and go to the store’s website directly.
As always, we want to encourage our readers to shop locally whenever possible. It is more secure, and it supports our local businesses and economy.
It is an exciting time for young people as they head back to school, and we hope the beginning of a new school year is not marred by scams, identity theft or even just bad purchases.