Back To School Shopping Online Safety And Homework Helper Scams
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It’s always a good time to freshen up on knowledge to ward off scams and protect your family. Today, KOAM’s taking a look at shopping tips, internet safety and homework helper scams.

Videographer Ty Parks spoke with the Regional Director of the BBB Stephanie Garland. She starts us off with some shopping tips from the Better Business Bureau.

>>>You can find other Back-to-School articles at KOAMNewsNow.com/education

Shopping Tips

BBB recommends the following tips when looking for school-related items, either in person or online:

Shop wisely, safely online

When shopping online, be wary of “clickbait” ads that feature items that imply that you may want or need them based on your search history. Scammers could be trying to drive you to a different website to potentially steal personal information. Take note of the ad and go to the store’s website by directly typing into the search bar. Make note of the website’s privacy policy, and contact information, and always use a credit card when making a purchase.

Beware of Scams

Stephanie Garland says, “We’ve seen in many years in the past, unfortunately, like fake emails have been stolen from fake different logos like Walmart Target saying that they’ve got a back to school deal. It’s not legitimate and whenever you’re ordering it, you’re ordering through this fake website so you never get the child’s things. Suddenly your kid may be late to school with the things, and would be really embarrassed about it. It’s just not a great feeling.”

Ask for discounts

Many stores and software companies offer discounts. Some are available to students with either a “.edu” email address or a student ID. Others may have a discount for signing up for marketing materials or surf the internet for online coupons and discounts (make sure they are affiliated with the retailer). It doesn’t hurt to ask, even if you don’t see a deal advertised at the store.

In-person shopping

Most retailers have dropped mask mandates, but some pharmacies or local stores may still have them. Supply chain issues could also impact shopping. When getting ready to shop, contact the store directly if you have questions about hours, policies, or to see if supplies are in stock.

You can find more shopping tips from the BBB here.

Internet Safety

As your children head back to school this year, buying new supplies and clothes is not enough. You also should be thinking about how to help them stay safe online and avoid being easy targets for online scammers.

Parents: Be careful

Creating accounts on websites without permission: Social media sites are ripe with strangers with intentions that may be quite different than yours. Many sites are designed to collect and sell unauthorized user details and behaviors to advertisers looking to engage in targeted marketing. Some kids may falsely create a birthdate to meet the minimum age requirement when creating an account. Know what your child is doing online, and keep track of the social media sites and accounts to which they have access.

Contests and giveaways: Contests and giveaways often collect a hefty amount of personal information on their entry forms. Many are thinly disguised ways of collecting personal or financial information that could lead to identity theft. Make sure your child doesn’t have access to banking or credit card information and supervise the filling out of any forms.

Phishing: Adults are not the only ones who receive spam and junk mail. Kids often get junk mail, and since they don’t have much online experience, they are more susceptible to click on links and answer questions they probably shouldn’t. While some emails may be legitimate, the last thing parents want, or need, is a $500 bill from a fraudulent website where a purchase may have been made- or worse, giving up personal information that can be tracked back to your home.

Understand apps. Short for “applications,” apps are downloaded software that operates on various devices, such as smartphones. However, certain apps might collect and share personal information about your child or target your child with ads. Even free apps may include paid features, and children may not understand that some apps or game features cost money, since they were labeled free to download. They may click on these so-called free games and end up costing parents or guardians a hefty bill at the end of the month.

File sharing sites: Many websites allow children to download free media. A child may not realize that these sites often come with the risk of downloading a virus, allowing identity thieves to access the gaming device, personal computer or cell phone that’s being used. From there, the cyberthief can track financial transactions, physical location or even tap into the household wifi without anyone knowing it.

>You can find tips on how to manage online privacy for your family here.

Homework Helper Scams

College and high school students who hire “tutors” to complete their class assignments are finding themselves the victims of extortion cons. BBB Scam Tracker has gotten reports about scam tutors who make money by threatening to report cheating students.

How the Scam Works

You are struggling in class and search online for a tutoring company that can help – not by teaching you the material but by doing the work for you. Victims report paying a couple hundred dollars for “help” with assignments for math and technology classes.

As soon as you pay up, things don’t go as you expect. Instead of helping you complete your homework, the company instead demands more money. They may claim it’s for “additional research” or make another excuse.

When you refuse to pay, the “tutor” turns on you. They send threatening emails or text messages claiming they will contact your school and expose you as a cheater.  One victim reported to Scam Tracker: “Once you ask for your money back, they will try to email your school or teacher to tell them that you use them and they did your homework.”

Tips to Avoid a Homework Helper Scam:

Hiring someone to complete your school assignments is cheating. But if you want to hire a tutor to help you understand the class material, follow these tips.

  • Ask for referrals. Ask friends, family, and teachers if they have any recommendations. Some schools even offer Honor Society students as free or reduced-cost tutors, so asking at school is a great place to start.
  • Check references. You should ask the individual tutor or tutoring service for references, and then contact them. It’s best to speak to at least three references. Ask about their experience with the tutor and what sort of results they saw.
  • Decide availability and rates up front. While tutors may charge extra for additional sessions before a big test, this should all be discussed and negotiated upfront. Last minute surprises and demands are signs of a less-than-scrupulous business.

For more information:

See BBB’s tips for hiring a tutor. Find a qualified tutor near you in the BBB directory. Read more about a similar scam, sextortion emails.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.

Subscribe to BBB’s weekly Scam Alerts.





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