Be careful when shopping for back-to-school tech online, BBB warns

Back to School

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The start of the next school year is just a few short weeks away, and finding certain supplies in stores may be difficult.

If you decide to do some or all of your shopping online, the Better Business Bureau warns to be careful.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school spending is expected to surpass $37 billion this year, up from the nearly $34 billion spent in 2020.

Electronics are a big part of that, with nearly $13 billion in spending anticipated.

“There are shortages on cars, on high-ticket items, also essential supplies like computer chips that may limit options for shoppers during this busy and hectic back-to-school season,” explained Paula Fleming, the BBB’s local chief marketing and sales officer.

Fleming pointed to data from market research firm Deloitte, which shows nearly 50% of consumers want to do their tech shopping online. She said this back-to-school season “has all the conditions to make for the perfect storm for these spikes in online scams.”

“What we’re encouraging people to do is to watch out for phony deals, enticing ads, and attractive but fake websites,” Fleming said. “Laptops, tablets, other tech accessories can be a major investment for families during this time. We want people to be sure that they do their research and they know who they’re providing their credit card to online.”

Instead of clicking a link from an email or social media, Fleming suggests going directly to a trusted website.

“Make sure the website is secure with the ‘https://’ before you put in your credit card,” she said, adding that it’s best to use one credit card for online purchases so you can easily track what you bought.

Fleming also said to make sure to read the fine print before buying items because some big box stores allow third-party sellers to list items on their website.

“There’s often a restocking fee, and if you’re returning it, they’ll say, ‘OK well we’re keeping 25%,'” Fleming noted, saying some people may not realize the restocking fee was part of the purchase agreement.

Here are some more tips from the BBB on how to safely shop online for back-to-school tech supplies:

  • Shop with familiar retailers. Laptops, tablets and other tech accessories can be a major investment. Shop with businesses you know and trust to ensure you’re getting a quality product and good customer service.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Some companies rarely offer sales. Do more research if a company that rarely discounts products is offering a huge sale. The products may be used or refurbished, or it could be a fake website.
  • 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.
  • Ensure you know who the seller is. Some big box retailers allow third-party sellers to list items on their site, and those items can be hard to distinguish from the rest. Read all the fine print to ensure you’re comfortable with the seller.
  • Finish your shopping early. Supply shortages are possible, especially as large numbers of consumers begin shopping for the same products. Do your shopping now to avoid paying higher prices or falling victim to a scam.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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