Don't look now, but Back to School time is basically here.  Numerous stores are already running back to school specials and the big Texas Tax-Free Weekend is coming up August 6-8. The Better Business Bureau of Texas is warning back to school shoppers to be wary of online scammers that use authentic-looking sites and advertisements to lure shoppers.

Between May-July 2020, Texas consumers lost an average of $50,000 per month to online purchasing scams, according to BBB Scam Tracker data. Many of those who lost money to online clothing stores found the business through an advertisement on social media, a common tactic that scammers use across the nation. One Texas consumer reported more than $500 lost to an online seller who “takes your money when you order his merchandise but never sends anything that was purchased. When I tried to message him about the missing order, he blocked me and told me I couldn’t make him do anything.”

“It is important to exercise extreme caution when dealing with online sellers, even if the advertisement appears to be for a well-known company,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for BBB serving the Heart of Texas. “Scammers know how to make websites and advertisements look legitimate. They know the shopping trends of American consumers and, right now, the trend is for back-to-school supplies and clothing. If you encounter an advertisement on social media, be sure to check with the official website of the company to verify it is a legitimate offer.”

To assist back-to-school shoppers this season, Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to save money and avoid scams:

Check around your home

Start back-to-school shopping right at home by making a list of everything that you need and then taking stock of everything that you may have stored in desks, drawers, closets or storage areas. Some supplies may still be leftover from last year, saving you from purchasing the same item twice.

Research expensive purchases

Before purchasing expensive items such as computers, laptops, or a refrigerator for a dorm, be sure to spend some time to research the brand, reviews of the product, warranty and prices at multiple locations. Universities often have rules regarding the size and placement of refrigerators in dorms. Check with the housing office at the college or university on whether an energy-efficient refrigerator is required or not.

Ask for student discounts

Stores and software companies often offer discounts to students that have either a student ID or a valid .edu email address. Even if a discount is not advertised, it never hurts to ask.

Shop in bulk

If purchasing standard items that are needed at the beginning of each school year, such as binders, notebooks or writing utensils, purchasing items in bulk is a great way to save money.

Shop safely online

  • If purchasing school supplies online, verify that the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” stands for secure and includes additional encryption and security measures than a “http” website.
  • If purchasing from a lesser-known website, make sure to take the time to read reviews and feedback from previous customers. The lowest price may not always be the best route. If the company’s contact information is not clearly listed, or they only have an email as the point of contact, that is a red flag. You may want to shop elsewhere.
  • BBB strongly recommends against using unprotected payment options when interacting with online marketplaces. If the seller asks for payment via wire transfer or a gift card, that is a sign it may not be a legitimate business. Using a credit card is almost always the best option when purchasing online due to the additional protections they have to dispute and resolve charges when purchased products are not received.

For more tips for back-to-school shopping, visit BBB.org/BackToSchool.

 

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