The new school year is here.
With footwear, food, clothes and general school supplies among the top contenders on the back to school shopping list that continues through September, many consumers will be looking for deals to help reduce costs.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice on how to shop smart for back to school items;
• Create a list. Jot down everything you need and stick to the list. Impulse purchases can increase your overall bill. Also, try shopping within your home before heading to the store. You may already have some of the items from last year that are still in good condition. Why purchase the same things twice?
• Research big ticket items, Before purchasing that expensive laptop or tablet, research the brands, warranty, customer reviews and the prices at various stores to be sure you are getting the best deal. Also, look up the retailer online at bbb.org.
• Shop smart with sales. Compare prices between different retail stores, save your coupons, sign up for email alerts and redeem any cash-back or rebate offers. This will help you get the best deals.
• Ask for student discounts. Many stores and software companies offer discounts to students that have a student ID. Even if you do not see a discount advertised at the store, it does not hurt to ask.
• Know the return policies and save your receipts. Children can be fickle. They can love a new shirt today and hate it tomorrow. Ask about the return policies before making your purchase. Be sure to save your receipts just in case you have to return the item later.
This past year saw online purchase scams holding one of the top spots on the BBB’s Top 10 Scams list and, without a doubt, many parents will be looking for back to school deals on the internet.
“BBB’s Risk Index found that online purchase scams are among the top five riskiest scams,” said Karla Davis, the BBB’s manager for community and public relations.
“With so many different kinds of scams online and even honest businesses sometimes being duped with counterfeit goods, it is important to use caution while browsing for deals.”
• Make sure you are shopping on legitimate websites. Do not rely on a simple Google search. Scammers are placing fake contact numbers and websites at the top of internet searches and can trick you into thinking you are purchasing from a real business.
• Ensure the website’s URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The “s” in “https” shows your information is being protected.
• Do your research. While an unknown website may offer a similar product at a lower price, the lowest price may not be the best route. Check for customer reviews and badges for consumer protection agencies, like BBB’s seal of trust.
• Avoid flashy pop-up ads. These may just be click-bait ads that trick you into revealing personal and financial information.
• Pay with a credit card. This payment method not only provides additional protection, but makes it easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
• Be extremely wary of any websites or stores that ask for your child’s personal information in order to access special deals. A child’s social insurance number is valuable to those committing identity theft because it offers a clean, blank slate to create and obtain fraudulent records which can go undetected for several years. If a business asks for their SIN, get more information. Why do they need it and where and how is this information being stored? How long is it being stored and how will it be terminated? Who has access to it?
• Read the fine print. Understand return policies, particularly on sale items.
• You may find items on sites like Craigslist. If you are buying school supplies through a website like Craigslist, avoid using wire transfers to make payments. Consider using PayPal or paying by cash. Thoroughly inspect the items before handing over your money, make sure to meet in a public space and have someone accompany you.