Online safety / September 01, 2021

Beware of back-to-school scams

Kimberly Bennett

Kimberly Bennett

Sr. Project Manager, TELUS Wise

Young child and mother/guardian looking at a laptop together

Back to school season is upon us. With many kids heading back to the classroom for in-person learning, parents have a lot to do to get ready, including back to school shopping. Like any big shopping season, scammers and fraudsters will try to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

Scams to look out for

According to a Global News report, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre is warning against the rise of social media scams. In 2020, internet and social media scams accounted for $22 million in losses.

How do they work? Fraudsters place fake ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram promoting in-demand products at rock bottom prices. Once you click on the ad, you’re directed to a phony website to make your purchase, and you either never receive the product or the item that arrives is counterfeit or poor quality.

Other social media scams include the phoney replication of legitimate business pages or social media accounts. This very thing happened to Winnipeg business Third and Bird. Third and Bird was conducting a giveaway for its loyal customer base, and unfortunately, fraudsters created fake accounts on Instagram promoting a similar giveaway to capture people’s credit card information. In total, there were five fake accounts which used photos and keywords from Third and Bird’s actual page, and the scammers got away with $7,000.

Buying back to school tech

Deloitte did a survey of 1,200 parents in the U.S. revealing this year’s projected back to school spend around $32.5 billion, or an average of $612 per student. The survey also found that parents are spending more on digital learning tools rather than traditional school supplies. In fact, the technology spend is expected to increase 37% from 2020. And the majority of respondents prefer to shop online for school-related technology.

The Better Business Bureau is warning against the rise in online shopping scams - especially for big-ticket items like technology - and it offers some tips for purchasing tech online:

  • Know who you’re buying from: when you buy from reputable retailers, you’ll have better points of accountability if something happens with your purchase, or if there are issues with the quality of the product

  • Verify the site: the differences between a legitimate and fake site are typically minor and hard to spot. Start with the About Us section. Look for inconsistencies in the story or spelling/grammar errors in the content, and read Google reviews for insights. These can be a telltale indicator of whether or not you’re dealing with a legitimate business

  • Be wary of very low prices: everyone wants a good deal, but sometimes a deal is just too good to be true. When buying the latest laptops, tablets or phones, there is only so much discount that’s reasonable. Do your research and price compare on different sites. If the discount is that deep, question it before you decide to purchase

  • Read your purchase agreements: sometimes large manufacturers will sell through a third-party. Make sure those relationships are real and sanctioned

  • Use your credit card: for big purchases, it’s better to rely on the protections available to you through a standard credit card. Credit cards do offer protection for fraud and give you the ability to conduct due diligence and recoup costs if something happens

Like anything you do online, being vigilant is your first line of defense when shopping for back to school. Trust your instinct, do your research and protect your personal and financial information. If you suspect potential fraud or fall victim to a scam, report it to authorities like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Tags:
Online banking & shopping
Frauds & scams
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