Get a Smart Start Back to School

Avoid scams and shop smart when preparing for a new school year

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Art welcome Back To School Banner; School Supplies Tumblr

It’s back to school time in Western PA!

While students and parents will be experiencing a range of emotions as kids head back to the classroom, the start of school doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Planning ahead and knowing what to expect can help prepare younger children and college students alike for what’s to come in the first days and weeks of a new school year.

“Your Better Business Bureau recognizes marketplace issues and trends that arise with the start of each new season, and the end of summer and initiation of back to school season is certainly no exception,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Whether you are searching for a legitimate shopping deal, evaluating a potential scam or questioning how to proactively protect your identity, turn to BBB as a credible resource for assistance.”

Keep the following BBB tips in mind as students, parents and teachers prepare to head back to class:

On Shopping

  • Take Inventory  – Before leaving the house, “shop at home” to find any leftover school supplies so you don’t buy anything unnecessary. Create a shopping list and a budget, search online and in ads for price comparisons so you know what to expect in stores. Be on the prowl for coupons: sign up for email alerts, coupon apps and apps from your favorite stores.
     
  • Beware of alluring ads – Whenever you see an ad, look at the fine print for restrictions and dates. Be wary of coupons you see online and in unsolicited emails. If an ad is from a retailer you’re unfamiliar with, look them up at bbb.org. It’s better to visit a business’ website by locating it through an Internet search or its BBB Business Review than by clicking on an ad of unknown origin.
     
  • Be prepared for returns – Read the return policy twice just in case you need to take something back. Be aware of any restrictions on returns, such as time or materials you need to bring in and whether you’ll receive cash or store credit, etc. Make sure to keep all original packaging and receipts.
     
  • Research major purchases – When shopping for laptops, calculators, dorm refrigerators and other large purchases, do your homework. Research the brands you’re looking for to see what meets your expectations.
     

On Avoiding Scams

  • Employment – If looking for job while in school, beware of ads and emails offering jobs with “no experience necessary” and too-good-to-be-true pay. If you have to pay upfront for supplies or are hired without a real interview, it may be bogus. Check out a company first at bbb.org.
     
  • Scholarship/Grants/Loans – Beware of scholarship-finding services that “guarantee” grants or scholarships. They may even sell lists to students of potential scholarship or grant opportunities. However, nearly all available financial aid comes from the federal government or from individual colleges and you will not have to pay a fee to apply. Go to grants.gov for more information.
     
  • Wire Transfers – If you are asked to pay for any goods or services via wire transfer, research the offer further to verify it’s not a scam. Examples: renting an apartment, buying a car, shopping online, paying debts or student loans bills.
     

On Protecting Personal Information
 

  • Be aware of form fraud – Back-to-school shopping often involves filling out forms for supplies, books, enrollment, etc. While it’s easy to fall into an auto-haze of filling out information, be careful what information you provide and who you are sharing it with. Shred all documents containing sensitive information before tossing.
     
  • Lock up personal items in college – Avoid friendly fraud by locking up personal belongings and documents with personal information. Don’t use your college mailbox for banking information or bills.


For more scams affecting students, watch this video and visit our back-to-school page for more BBB smart shopping tips.

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