Most students in Alberta are expected to return to in-person learning this September and that fact has led the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to warn parents and students about tech purchases made online.
“Many students are required to have digital learning tools such as laptops,” says Mary O’Sullivan-Andersen, President and CEO of the BBB Serving southern Alberta and East Kootenay. “This type of demand, unfortunately, also creates a context where there can be an increased risk of being scammed.”
O'Sullivan-Anderson adds that due to disruptions to the supply chain during the pandemic there is also a reported shortage of microchips. It's under those circumstances that consumers may take more risks and go to online sites they are unfamiliar with.
BBB offers these tips for consumers considering purchasing technology:
- Shop with familiar retailers. Laptops, tablets or 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.
Learn more about avoiding scams when shopping online: BBB Tip: Smart Shopping Online.
Get your school year off to a strong start with BBB's Back-to-School Shopping Tips.
Report scams at BBB.org/ScamTracker.