Posted: 7/30/2018

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As the summer months come to a close, it’s time to prepare for returning to school. That means stocking up on school supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more. Don’t forget to do your homework on common back-to-school scams.

back to school

As the summer months come to a close, it’s time to prepare for returning to school. That means stocking up on school supplies, clothes, shoes, backpacks, and more. Don’t forget to do your homework on common back-to-school scams.

Counterfeit Coupons

Scammers commonly use phony free offers or gift card giveaways to con consumers. On social media sites you’ve no doubt ran across posts claiming by liking and sharing you can win $50 or $100 gift cards to popular retailers like Target or Wal-Mart. Or you may see posts from celebrities claiming giveaways of prizes or money just by clicking a link, sharing or liking a post.

These are fake and simply click-bait. By participating, users  offer scammers an open invitation to gather personal information about you that they can later use to steal your identity, money, or commit other nefarious acts. They can also lead you to click links that can harm your device by installing malware or a virus.  Don’t fall victim by sharing, liking, or clicking on these links.

Dangerous Downloads

Textbooks can be very expensive. You may be tempted to search online for a free download to save some money. Or, in preparation for an exam you might seek out sample test questions and answers online. Be careful when downloading pdf files or other content from unknown sources. This can also lead to downloading malware and infect your laptop or device with programs. 

Before you decide to download anything, think about whether or not you should trust the site. If you are even slightly concerned, it’s best to avoid hitting the download button. Instead, check auction sites, eBay, or the school message board to see if former students are selling older copies of the textbook. Another alternative, see if a fellow student is willing to go in with you to pay for a book that you can share. If you need help with upcoming exams, consider getting a tutor or start a study group.

Free Money Frauds

In recent years, grant and scholarship scams have been on the rise. BCA commonly receives complaints from consumers who have been duped by “free” money scams. The con artist use deception to lure people into paying “fees” to supposedly cover application fees, taxes, or some other made up cost. They often disguise their identity claiming to represent government agencies, reputable educational institutions, and private organizations. They are all a ruse to either get your money or get you to reveal personal information so the schemers can victimize you financially. The funds don’t exist.

Keep in mind you should not have to pay for a grant. Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.  Also, some scammers offer to process your financial aid application for a fee and ask that you provide them with your Federal Student Aid (FSA) PIN. It doesn’t cost you anything to apply for financial aid. You should never allow anyone access to your FSA PIN, which is equivalent to your signature on any documents related to your student loan.  If you need assistance, speak to your school counselors, visit the institutions financial aid office, or contact StudentLoans.gov.  Check out our articles “Grants for School and How They Work” and “5 Ways to Pay for College” for more information.

Before You Pay……

It is always wise to do some research before you dive into any offer. Always remember these words of advice, “Before You Pay, Check BCA”. We provide Reputation Reports on a variety of businesses that including complaint history and consumer reviews. You can also contact us directly to check out an offer, an opportunity, or to get advice. Just email us, contact us on social media, give us a call at (909) 825-7280, or use our Ask the Experts forum. We also have resources like BCA’s Online Shopping Tips, blogs such as Is This a Scam?, and complaint mediation services if you run into a problem with a business or want to report a scam.

Keep up to date on trending topics, scam warnings, tips, and guides by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t forget to share the information with others so they are on alert and don’t fall victim to scam.

About Business Consumer Alliance

Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.

Tags: school, scam

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The Consumer Ally program is free for consumers to join. At BCA, we feel it's very important to educate the public on trends like scams, new laws and providing helpful tips to empower the public in making wise purchasing decisions. This program is an elite community of consumers who share our vision for a safe marketplace. We can't be everywhere at once so we depend on feedback from the public to help our efforts.

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