BBB alerts parents to avoid scammers targeting back-to-school shoppers

Getting the students in your family all set for the new school year is a top priority and can be fun, but please be aware that scammers love back-to-school, too.

That's because it is one of the major shopping times of the year and provides con artists with various opportunities to steal your cash, identity, and empty your bank account.

Parents allocate a substantial amount of money on back-to-school items. For the 2023 school year, the National Retail Federation says shoppers are expected to spend an average of $890 per family. Spending for families with college-age students is pegged at $1,366. Both of these figures are record levels.

Parents turn to online shopping to make back-to-school shopping easier, but scammers will devise new angles to take advantage of the mad rush for the most popular products. Con artists proactively target shoppers with phony deals, enticing pop-up and fraudulent ads, and attractive but fake websites to connive busy parents out of well-earned money.

Here are my recommendations for getting the best deals and avoiding scams. It is best to shop now to avoid paying higher prices later for the most in-demand products. 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.

Research big-ticket items: Whether your children are learning in-person at school or online from home, technology has come to the forefront over the past three years. When buying new equipment, check with your child's school to learn about any technical requirements.

Before purchasing an expensive laptop, tablet, or other computer accessories, research the brands, warranty, customer reviews, and prices of various stores for the best deal. Be sure to check the retailer's reputation on and look for the BBB Seal, The Sign of a Better Business.

Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. Many stores and software companies offer discounts. Some are available to students with either a ".edu" email address or a student ID.

I'd like to share some tools to help you thwart fraudsters. When online, only deal with secure websites. These will begin with "https" and have a "lock" symbol on the address bar.

Watch out so you don't buy from impostors. Scammers 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.

Approach low prices with caution. Low prices and short-term sales could be a sign you've encountered a scam. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Online, be wary of "clickbait" ads that feature items that imply that you may want or need them based on your search history. Scammers could be trying to drive you to a different website to potentially steal personal information.

If you've spotted a scam (whether or not you've lost money), report it to BBB Scamtracker to help alert others. Visit or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media.

• Steve J. Bernas is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau and can be reached at

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