Don’t Get Scammed While Back to School Shopping

It’s that time when all you parents out there are probably shopping online, trying to get the best deals on school supplies and clothing for the upcoming academic year. While you’re busy shopping and trying your best to save money, be on the lookout for scams. Continue reading about some of the most common ones that are out there.

Do your research. Are you clicking and adding to cart on a new website you’ve never used? Before you actually make a purchase, do a quick online search for the merchant’s name. See if anything comes up that mentions a multitude of complaints or lists any scams associated with the company name. You can also check the company’s social media sites to see reviews and comments, as well as look on the Better Business Bureau’s website. If you are browsing around a website and see misspelled words or unclear sentences, this is another indicator that it may be a fraudulent website.

Take precautions with online ads. Don’t think that scammers can’t purchase ads on social media sites. If you see something too good to be true, or that follows the website criteria we just mentioned – it’s best to shop elsewhere.

Review the price and availability. Are you looking for something in particular that you can’t seem to find anywhere else, but seeing it available at a great price on an unknown website or ad? Be leery of this. It could be a trap to lure you to the fraudulent website, and pay for merchandise you’ll never receive – or be able to get your money back.

When checking out, make sure the web browser is secure. How to know a website is legitimate and secure? The web address and payment page URL will begin with https:// and you should see a lock icon at the top. Also, if paying via PayPal through the merchant’s website is an option – take it. This protects your card information and also would help with reimbursement to you should there be any issues with your purchase.

Shop with a credit card. When you can, it’s always better to shop online with a credit card. This protects you if there is a dispute for charges you didn’t approve. If you use a debit card, the funds actually get deducted from your bank account and while you can still file a dispute and get your money back – it may take awhile. Credit cards typically also offer higher daily purchase limits. Read more about our advice on this topic in our credit vs. debit guidebook.

Check the fine print. Before purchasing, be sure to review the merchant’s return policy to make sure you can return items you purchase, if there are any restocking fees, or if you’ll need to pay for return shipping. You’ll also want to read any additional fine print details and see how long shipping might take, as well as where your order is shipping from. Will tracking information be provided and notifications, once your items have shipped?

What do you do if you were scammed? Hopefully you either paid with a credit card or through PayPal. If so, you’ll want to call your credit card company right away, and with PayPal you can open a case online. You should also report the fraudulent website to the Better Business Bureau and FTC websites.

This back to school season, stay safe online and prevent fraud from happening to you! Questions about a scam involving any of your First Financial accounts? Contact us right away.

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Online Shopping Tips for This Unusual Holiday Season

This year more so than others – given the pandemic, many people have been shopping online for the holidays instead of in the store. If you’re still shopping and getting hit left and right with emails for online sales, coupons, and deals – keep reading to find out how to save money and shop safely without exposing yourself to online fraud.

  • If you’re using a home computer to order gifts online, first be sure you have the latest antivirus software installed prior to placing any orders.
  • Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, always compare products between different stores. Do some research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews before you click “add to cart.”
  • Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller you are deciding to purchase from is legitimate. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller (or that you can pay via PayPal on their site) if you have a dispute.
  • Look for coupon codes. Search for the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” Or you can check for deals on their website or research available offers on a site such as
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to an online seller. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it is most likely a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” within any web address stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter any personal or financial information. You should also see a lock icon where the secure website address is too.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get your purchase, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you won’t have to return the item.

If you follow the above steps when buying online and purchase smart, this season of cyber holiday shopping is bound to be a breeze!

Should you happen to encounter any scams while shopping online, you can report it to the FTC at

Happy Holiday shopping!


Article Source: S. Walker for