Scammers Taking Advantage of Shortage of Back-to-School Supplies, BBB Warns Consumers

Better Business Bureau
Photo Credit: Aaron Burden / Unsplash

LOS ANGELES & SAN JOSE – School will be back in session soon and this year, teachers and students will transition from the virtual classroom to in-person learning. It’s also a stressful time for parents who have to purchase school supplies. Global supply chains are compromised by extreme weather, cyber attacks, shipping delays and COVID, which means retailers are unable to meet the surge in demand for things like sneakers, backpacks and electronic gadgets.

It’s a perfect storm and scammers are taking advantage.

Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles & Silicon Valley knows that moms, dads and grandparents may not have time to visit several stores to find just the right notebook or markers. Instead, they’ll opt for the convenience of online shopping – and that’s where unethical opportunists are lying in wait.

“Here’s a typical back-to-school scam that’s spreading like wildfire,” says Steve McFarland, President & CEO of BBB of Los Angeles & Silicon Valley. “You see a pop-up ad for a product you’re looking for at an unbelievably low price. You click on the ad and place your order, but the item never arrives. Now you’re out that money with nothing to show for it and you’ve given away your credit card information. BBB says beware of suspicious looking online offers and double check the name of the business to make sure it’s legitimate.”

McFarland says other times scammers will ask for your banking information with no intention of sending your order. Instead, they’ll drain your bank account if you’re not careful. BBB urges consumers to use a credit card when making an online purchase because you have additional protections and a better chance to getting your money back.

But there’s some good news. BBB says there are a few things you can do differently this year to stock up on school supplies and avoid being taken for a ride:

  • Make a list and create a budget for those items.
  • Research prices and compare them with other known sellers before you buy.
  • Buy in bulk and share costs with other parents.
  • Consider buying items at a consignment store.
  • Never pay online with gift cards or wired funds.
  • Check around the house. You may have some extra office supplies you didn’t know about.

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