School will soon be in session, and the rush to buy supplies has already begun. According to the National Retail Federation, higher prices and an increase in product shortages will have consumers looking at more cost-effective, unfamiliar brands to fill their back to school lists. The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan (BBB®), warns shoppers to be careful of online deals that may be too good to be true.
According to the 2021 BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, Online Purchase Scams were the riskiest for consumers, and continue to cost shoppers in 2022.
"Scammers are finding opportunities by enticing shoppers with discounted products,” Says Lisa Frohnapfel, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan. “Each year scammers take advantage of shoppers who don’t do their research, and instead look only for the lowest price.”
BBB Tips for back to school shopping:
- Beware of too good to be true deals. Scammers may offer free or very low prices on hard to find items. With many products being hard to find this back to school season, scammers will be looking to take advantage of consumers desperate for certain supplies.
- Do your homework. Learn more about the seller by looking them up on bbb.org. Do not rely on reviews from the company’s website.
- Think before you click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype.
- Finish your shopping early. With supply shortages and high prices, there will be a large number of shoppers all looking for the same products. Start early and finish early so you are not in a hurry, allowing you to avoid higher prices or being enticed by a bad deal.
- Research big ticket items. Before purchasing any major item, research the brand and check the product's warranties. Only shop with businesses you know and trust to ensure you’re getting a quality product and good customer service.
- Check the site's security. If the site is secure, its URL should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Only enter payment information on secure sites.
- Pay with a credit card. Credit card companies give you an extra layer of protection, offering you the opportunity to dispute any charges if the transaction goes bad.
- Read the fine print. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.
Report scams. Report any suspicious websites or advertisements to bbb.org/ScamTracker.