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BBB Tip of the Week: Back-to-school shopping

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

Going back to school may look different this year, but that isn’t stopping parents from trying to be prepared, whether children are in the classroom or at home. Unfortunately, with supplies low and demand high, people are shopping with new online retailers they have never used before, which is causing extra stress and money loss.

The Federal Trade Commission has reported that Americans have already lost $77.4 million because of COVID-19 fraud. Online shopping is one of the top categories in that report, stemming in part from idled factories that produce the world’s clothing, shoes and electronics. Spring and summer goods were shipped before the disruptions began, but as we know, the effects of coronavirus shutdowns continue to impact consumers and retailers.

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 compared to last year. The excess spending is driven by parents purchasing computers and other big-ticket items for the home. Those are the items parents used to lean on schools to provide.

According to Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, consumers have reported losing money when attempting to buy everything from name-brand clothing to educational supplies and online tutors, which has resulted in thousands of dollars being lost. For this reason, BBB is encouraging shoppers to be extra vigilant as con artists try to benefit from your school supply search.

As you are shopping for your student, you may discover 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. Also, be wary of clickbait ads featuring items that imply you may want or need it based on your search history. These types of ads exist to drive you to a different website to potentially steal your personal information.

Here are other tips that can help you feel like an A+ parent while you are getting your child ready for another year of school:

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 and antivirus and antispyware 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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