As we enter the school year with an unprecedented amount of uncertainty, scammers are eagerly seizing their opportunity. With parents scrambling to outfit their kids for distance learning, or coping with new requirements for in-classroom education, the market is flooded with frauds.
Jason Meza, the regional director for the Better Business Bureau in Austin, Texas, told reporters that the “BBB has seen an uptick in online sites that are offering PPE related merchandise or school related curriculum and remote based learning tools—they’re fraudulent sites.”
These fake websites could be aimed at any of the following:
How does it work? A common scam involves setting up a domain that’s almost, but not quite, the real thing. For example, instead of target.com, the scammers might set up a scam site on “gotarget.com” or “targetteen.com” with a fake storefront selling back-to-school supplies during the pandemic.
It sounds plausible enough; lots of websites have a specific “teen” brand, and honestly, you don’t pay that much attention to the URL in the address bar anyway. If it looks like the real thing, then you might not even give it a second thought.
That’s especially true for email messages. Let’s say you are targeted (no pun intended) by this scammer. You get an email from “Emily@GoTarget.com” promising you a huge discount on back-to-school PPE. All you have to do is click the link or download the attachment to get your special coupon.
Unfortunately, if you do that you will almost certainly end up with malware or worse. Never click links or download attachments unless you are 100% certain that it’s legitimate. And even then, it’s a good idea to have up-to-date malware blocking software installed on your computer.
Because of shortages, uncertainty, and stress, the 2020 back-to-school season is a playground for scammers. When you get a supply list from your school that includes things like masks and hand sanitizers, you might not be sure where to get them. Shopping online for a bargain is probably not the best choice.
Any deal that seems too good to be true, especially now, is probably a scam. That includes ads you see on social media–don’t click them! If you do decide to shop online, always pay with a credit card. They have the best built-in payment protections.