Threat Alert: Back-to-school scams accelerate

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Yes, it’s a hectic time but parents should remain vigilant

Back-to-school season is often filled with anxiety as parents and children rush to get ready. Scammers often take advantage of the confusion.

The ConsumerAffairs-Trend Micro Threat Alert has found a number of these types of schemes, including fake apartment rental scams targeting returning college students. But many of the scams target shoppers.

Back to School Shopping Scam 

  • Between July 1-August 13, Trend Micro research team identified 152,186 back-to-school shopping-related scam URLs, which increased by 25.7% compared to the past nine days.  

  • Trend Micro detected a 62.47% year-over-year increase. 

  • Top five states being targeted are Oregon, Virginia, California, Texas and New York 

John Clay, vice president of Threat Intelligence at Trend Micro, says back-to-school season has historically been a period of heightened vulnerability online, but this year the stakes are even higher.

“The fusion of AI technologies like ChatGPT with advanced scamming tactics shows a sophistication that is deeply concerning,” Clay told ConsumerAffairs. “The staggering 62.47% year-over-year increase in scam URLs related to back-to-school shopping, especially with states like Oregon and Virginia leading the pack, accentuates the urgent need for parents, teachers, and students to be equipped with strong internet safety and media literacy skills.”

Walmart Survey Scam 

  • Trend Micro's research team identified scammers impersonating Walmart to inform victims that they won a brand new 65” QLED 8K smart TV. The scammers asked victims for their personal and credit card information to declare the "prize." 

  • Top five states being targeted the most (in order): Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, California 

The Walmart survey scam must be highly effective because it seems to make our list every week. Like many major retailers, Walmart does seek customer feedback in the form of surveys.

It even offers drawings in which a small number of survey participants win prizes. However, scammers appear to be calling people at random, even those who didn’t fill out a survey, telling them they have won.  

Shipping Scam 

  • Trend Micro's research team identified scammers disguising as Australia Post to notify victims that their parcel delivery is unsuccessful, then asking for their name, address, and credit card information to redeliver their package. 

  • Top five states being targeted are Pennsylvania, Texas, California, New York and North Carolina   

It seems odd that scammers would pretend to be an Australian delivery service to target victims in the U.S. Obviously, it works. This scheme follows the same pattern as UPS and DHL delivery scams, which are in search of personal information.

Travel Scam 

  • Between April 1-August 13, the Trend Micro research team identified 2,673 travel-related scam URLs, which increased by 19.1% compared to the past weeks. Trend Micro found one fake and two fake Airbnb pages, with over one-third of the victims from Oregon (33.15%). 

  • Top five states being targeted are Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois 

This scam may become less common after Labor Day, but maybe it won’t. Pent-up demand may keep Americans traveling well into the holidays. That means you should remain vigilant when booking flights, accommodations and rental cars.

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