FTC warns parents about back-to-school shopping scams

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Credit cards offer the best protection against online shopping fraud

Parents have enough to deal with now that it's nearly time for kids to return to school. But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says there's one more thing that they should watch out for -- online school shopping scams.

In addition to the advice it recently passed out to college students, the agency says it has another list of recommendations that consumers should keep in mind when shopping for school supplies online. Here are the things officials say consumers should consider:

  • Check refund and return policies, especially on sale or clearance items. When it comes to sale items, merchants frequently have tighter refund and return policies. However, what consumers might not be aware of is that dishonest sellers often use tricky disclosures and fine print to completely deny refund requests.

  • Use a credit card for online purchases. The FTC says consumers should use credit cards when buying products online if possible. Officials note that these products offer the best protection against fraud, including the right to dispute charges if there are problems with your purchase.

  • Always save your receipts or confirmation emails. In situations where something goes wrong, make sure you pull together receipts and order emails as a paper trail. “If something goes wrong, these will help you get your money back from the seller or file a dispute with your credit card company,” the FTC said.

  • You don’t have to accept shipping delays. If you bought something online and never got it, notify the seller as soon as possible. If a seller hasn’t shipped your item within the timeframe they promised when you bought it, the law says you can cancel the order for a full refund.

  • Look for pre-checked boxes. Pre-checked, opt-out boxes were a widely used trick at one time, but they’re now illegal. Nonetheless, scammers may still employ them and hope that you won’t notice that you’re agreeing to be billed later. “Uncheck the box if you don’t agree with what it says. If you want to change or cancel a subscription or automatic charges, sellers must give you an easy way to cancel,” the agency said.

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