Don’t Get Cheated by Back-to-School Gimmicks

August 14, 2014

As people prepare to fork out more cash this school year, Better Business Bureau offers advice for both parents and students before they hit store shelves and online stores.

According to the National Retail Federation, back-to-school shopping will top $26 billion this year. Online shopping is on the rise with more than half of students using their smartphones to make purchases. This could open the door for scammers to target shoppers.

Meanwhile, thousands of college students are apartment hunting. If they’re not careful, they could fall into bad lease terms.

BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington has received 171 complaints against apartment complexes this year alone.

To be a savvy shopper and wise renter, BBB advises consumers to:

  1. Be wary of ads or links offering gift cards for filling out surveys or entering contests. These links could lead to malicious sites that could download malware to a smartphone or computer. Remember: ads that look too good to be true, often are.
  2. Be on the lookout for text message scammers. Scammers are known to send text messages claiming to be brand name stores asking consumers to claim freebies by texting their personal information. These are likely phishing scams that could lead to identity theft.
  3. Understand tenant’s rights and responsibilities. An apartment lease should always include specifics on how all maintenance and repair concerns are handled. It should also clearly state what the rent amount covers, such as utilities or cable TV.
  4. Know the red flags of a rental scam. Be careful of landlords who are located elsewhere or require a substantial deposit before handing over the keys or even showing the property. Steer clear of landlords who ask renters to wire money through services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
  5. Take precautions before moving in. Document the apartment’s condition by taking pictures of the unit prior to move-in. This will protect renters from being held responsible for damages they didn’t do.

For more trustworthy consumer tips and BBB accredited property management companies, visit

ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB Northwest serves more than 14 million consumers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Western Wyoming.