DuPont, Wash. — Summer vacation may be over, but fraudsters are just getting started. Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington urges parents and students to brush up on their online safety knowledge before heading back to school.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft ranked as the number one consumer complaint last year nationwide. Cyber crooks often target unsuspecting students or parents who disclose personal information when filling out school forms, scholarships or applications. BBB advises consumers to be wary of online offers and gimmicks designed to steal a person’s identity and money.
Ace this school year by spotting these common back to school scams:
- Phony Promotions. Steer clear of online gimmicks that promise discounted electronics or gadgets. Scammers lure in customers with too-good-to-be-true deals by having them click on links or pop-up ads. One wrong click could lead to malware on a device or direct the person to an unwanted site.
- Spurious Scholarships. Resist the urge for free money offers. Fraudsters will offer bogus scholarships and financial aid packages to victims claiming they’ve been ‘selected’ or ‘awarded’ a scholarship. While some offers may be scams other deals end up charging students for a service that is free.
- Deceptive Degrees. Avoid online programs that offer fast and easy high school diplomas or college degrees. Check BBB Business Reviews and read complaints. Online degrees can be costly and fake ones aren’t worth the paper they’reprinted on.
To help eliminate the risk of falling victim to a scam, BBB and the FTC recommend the following safeguards before a student heads back to school.
- Limit Kids Online Access. Teach kids what not to post online. Never include full names, addresses, and dates of birth or social security numbers on social media sites.
- Change Passwords. Use strong passwords on smart phones, tablets and computers. Change the passwords every few weeks and be careful about leaving devices unattended in public areas like dorms or libraries.
- Understand Student Rights. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also gives you the right to opt out of the release of directory information to third parties.