Watch out for these Back-to-School scams

Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As parents and students stock up on school supplies for the upcoming school year, the Better Business Bureau says scammers are after those buying laptops and tablets instead of pencils and notebooks.

“The margins are so tight on pencils that you’re not making away with a lot of money. But if you have somebody who’s looking for a laptop, or a tablet, or a piece of technology that requires microchips, there’s a lot of money to be made and frankly a wider runway to work with for scamming unsuspecting consumers,” said Josh Planos with BBB.

Planos says this time of year, fake websites for stores like Target, Best Buy, and Walmart start to pop-up as social media ads give scammers a way in.

“These are sites that look exactly like reputable dealers, but are in fact, you know, one letter off, two letters off in the domain. And because of that, they’re merely ploys to gain access to your personal and your payment information. We call these look alike sites. And we’ve never monitored more than we have in the past 12 months,” Planos said.

Planos claims these sites can offer discounts that may be hard to pass up. He also says there are details to pay attention to such as spelling errors, grainy images and website quality.

Ryan Southan with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office says scams for scholarships are similar.

“They might be solicited via text, via email, or social media to apply for scholarships with basically no requirements in terms of qualification. It’s basically... an imposter program, one that doesn’t exist, but sounds legitimate, that monies are available, but you must apply quickly. Scholarships are limited apply now. So they use urgency or fear of missing out,” Southan said

Southan says these scholarship scams will likely include a fee to apply, from just $25 up to $100, and could ask for identifying information like your social security number.

“I think it’s easy because we have become habituated to using our phones and the internet as the end-all be-all of knowledge. And if it’s printed on the internet or available on the internet, it must be true. Scammers can just as easily as legitimate businesses pay for search engine optimization and have their scam website results come up on first page search engine results. Most of us don’t navigate beyond the second page and we find an enticing title or hyperlink, click on it. And that can be our undoing.” said Southan.

Both Southan and Planos say websites like the Better Business Bureau and Federal Student Aid website can help you identify if that deal or scholarship is a scam.

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