As high school, college and university students prepare for the upcoming new school year, the need for technology supplies rises.
However, shortages of essential supplies like computer chips may limit the options available to shoppers. Students and families might find it hard to purchase the exact tech they desire from trustworthy sellers.
“We are expecting to see a rise in online purchase scams during the back-to-school shopping season as more shoppers look for school-related supplies such as computers, “ said Simone Lis, President and CEO of BBB Serving Mainland BC.
“Last year, nearly 1/3 of scams reported by Canadians to BBB Scam Tracker were about online purchase scams, with a little over 73% of those targeted losing money. This made it the 3rd riskiest scam in Canada according to our 2021 BBB Risk Report.”
Taking advantage of hot ticket, hard to find or seasonal consumer goods, such as back-to-school technologies, online purchase scams often start when scammers target shoppers with phony deals, enticing ads and attractive but fake websites.
Once an order is placed, victims find they receive nothing or the items they do receive are counterfeit or inferior to what the ads promised.
To ensure you have a pleasant back-to-school shopping experience, BBB advises shoppers to keep the following tips in mind when shopping for tech supplies:
- Shop with familiar retailers. Laptops, tablets or other tech accessories can be a significant investment. Shop with businesses you know and trust to ensure you’re getting a quality product and good customer service.
- Finish your shopping early. Supply shortages are possible, especially as many consumers begin shopping for the same products. Do your shopping now to avoid paying higher prices or falling victim to a scam.
- Know what you’re shopping for. Set a budget, identify what capabilities will benefit your student and compare your options. Then, shop around for a reliable seller. Researching the best product for your needs will help you avoid scams and buyer's remorse.
- Avoid making quick purchases while browsing social media. Scammers advertise websites that offer great deals or hard-to-find products, but either don’t deliver the product at all or deliver counterfeit products. Do more research on those products by doing an online search for more information and reviews.
- Don’t buy from impostors. Fraudsters may use the name, logo and other characteristics of brands you trust. Closely examine the website to verify that they are who they say they are. Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar.
- Pay by credit card: Credit cards often provide more protection against fraud than other payment methods. Never use debit cards for online purchases.
- Keep a record of what you ordered: Make a note of the website where you ordered goods. Take a screenshot of the item ordered, in case the website disappears or you receive an item that differs from what was advertised.
- Approach "too good to be true prices" with caution. Low prices and short-term sales could signal you’ve encountered a scam. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Research the website before making a purchase:
- Check BBB.org to check a business’s rating and BBB accreditation status. Watch for the BBB Seal, the sign of a better business, on a business profile at bbb.org or the company website. Some fake companies may copy the BBB seal to legitimize themselves. If it is real, clicking on the seal will lead to the company’s BBB profile.
- Do an internet search with the company name and the words “complaint”, “scam” and “review”. This may locate other complaints about the site or let you know if they are legitimate or not.
- Scamadviser.com can often tell you how long a website has been in operation. Scammers create and close websites regularly, so a site that has only been operating for a short time could raise red flags.
- Verify customer reviews: Scammers frequently post positive reviews on their websites, either copied from honest sites or created by scammers (fake profiles, bots, etc). One trusted resource to check reviews is BBB.org. Be aware, some review websites claim to be independent but are funded by scammers. Look at the bad reviews first. These are more likely to be real and can help identify scams.
If you think you’ve encountered an online shopping, be sure to report it to the right place and protect other unsuspecting consumers:
- Better Business Bureau - file a complaint at BBB.org or report a scam at BBB.org/scamtracker.
- Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre - file a report at antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca or call 1-888-495-8501.
- Report ads that violate standards, copyright or other policies to the correct source such as: Facebook (facebook.com/business/help), Instagram (help.instagram.com), or Amazon.
- Your credit card company - Call the phone number on the back of the credit card to report the fraud and request your money back.
Get your school year off to a strong start with BBB's Back-to-School Shopping Tips.
The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Mainland British Columbia, which was founded in 1939 and serves Mainland BC and the Yukon territory.