Beware Back-to-School Tuition Scams

College age girl on bench reading book at schoolBack-to-school season means a flurry of shopping — and a flurry of scams. Scammers know that students and their parents are caught up in a frenzy of preparations and errands and are, therefore, more likely to fall victim to schemes. As you get ready for school, look out for these scams targeting college students and parents of private school students that tend to peak before the start of the school year.

The tuition fee scam
How it plays out: A college student, or the parent of a private school student, receives a phone call from a caller introducing themselves as a secretary or administrator at their school, or their child’s school. The caller claims the student or parent owes tuition fees and will not be allowed to return to school for the coming semester unless the fees are paid. They may explain that a tuition check has bounced or that a credit card payment didn’t clear. Alternatively, the caller claims the student’s grant or scholarship was abruptly canceled and the student is now being billed for the full tuition fee.

The caller insists on being paid the outstanding sum immediately or the student will lose their spot in the school. The “secretary” or “administrator” provides the victim with detailed information for wiring money or dropping off the cash at a private address. Of course, once the money is sent, it will never be seen again.

Protect yourself: This scam is easy to spot because most schools will not insist on immediate payment, or payment through a wire transfer. If you receive a call like the one described above, ask the caller detailed questions about the school, their position and the money owed. If it’s a scam, the caller will not be able to answer well. You can also explain that you need to see the actual bill before making any payments, and that you’d like to pick up the bill yourself from the school. Finally, you can insist on calling the school directly to make the payment.

The student tax scam
How it plays out: In this scam, someone allegedly representing the IRS calls a college student at a public university and claims they neglected to pay their student tax. The caller explains that the student tax helps fund the university and that failure to pay this tax can result in disqualification from class and possible imprisonment. They will insist on immediate payment via prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

Protect yourself: You can spot this scam by remembering that the IRS will always first contact people by mail. Also, the IRS won’t insist on being paid through gift card or wire transfer.

The scholarship scam
How it plays out: A scammer reaches out to a college student telling them they’ve been guaranteed approval for a scholarship or grant. The only catch is that the student must pay a hefty fee to receive it. Unfortunately, the scholarship is bogus and, if the victim falls for the scam, they will never see that money again.

In a similar scam, a victim is instructed to pay a fee to a company that will allegedly file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in their name. Of course, no FAFSA form will be filed, and the money paid for this “service” will go directly into the scammer’s pockets.

Protect yourself: Student scholarships and grants are designed to help students and their parents pay for education; they don’t charge for eligibility. If an alleged scholarship claims to charge a fee before granting approval, it is most certainly a scam. Also, no company will guarantee approval for a scholarship or grant; there is always a vetting process of some kind before eligibility is determined. Finally, there is no reason to pay to have a FAFSA form filed; it can be completed easily online here. For additional help, college students can contact the financial aid office at their university.

Scammers are out in full force before the start of the school year. Don’t let them make the grade! Stay alert and stay safe.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a back-to-school scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
scam-detector.com
mysuncoast.com
fraud.org

11 Ways To Save On Back-to-School Shopping

Mom and young boy shopping for school clothes at a department storeAh, summer! It’s the season of fireworks and fireflies, road trips and rocky road ice cream, baseball and beach balls, flip-flops and ice pops.

But, just as you’re settling into the laid-back summer routine, retailers start rolling out their back-to-school displays, which may open that pit of dread into your stomach. Supply lists. New clothing. Backpacks, jeans, laptops and school shoes: It’s endless. And it’s so expensive!

In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, the average American parent will spend upward of $700 per child this shopping season.

If that’s enough to put a damper on your summer plans, take a deep breath and relax. You don’t need to spend yourself into debt just because everyone else seems to be doing it. Instead, take a proactive, mindful approach when shopping for the new school year and spend hundreds less than the national average. Let Advantage One Credit Union show you how!

Here are 11 creative ways to save on back-to-school shopping costs.

1. Go crazy for coupons
Why pay full price when you can get it for less? Use coupon sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com and Coupons.com for percentage-off or money-off coupons that will help you save big.

2. Shop the dollar store
Before hitting the big-box stores and their big-box prices, scour your local dollar store for school supply treasures that will only cost a buck.

3. Get backpacks at Hollar.com, eBags.com or 6PM.com
Don’t spend a fortune on your child’s bookbag without checking out these sites. If your child is set on having a character backpack this year, check out Hollar.com for a great selection at crazy-low prices. Does your little one have designer taste? Try eBags.com or 6PM.com for brand-name bags at a fraction of their regular price.

4. Shop tax-free
Many states offer tax-free holidays on clothing, footwear, and/or school supplies during the back-to-school shopping season to ease the financial burden of cash-strapped parents. Take full advantage by shopping during these days.
Here are the tax-free dates for back-to-school season, 2019:

Alabama: July 19-21
Arkansas: August 3-4
Connecticut: August 18-24
Florida: August 2-4
Iowa: August 2-3
Maryland: August 11-17
Mississippi: July 26-27
Missouri: August 2-4
New Mexico: August 2-4
Ohio: August 2-4
Oklahoma: August 2-4
South Carolina: August 2-4
Tennessee: July 26-28
Texas: August 9-11
Virginia: August 2-4

5. Shop on Sunday and Monday
Weekly sales on school supplies will go live at the beginning of the week – and the hottest items will be grabbed up first. Shop early in the week to score the best deals.

6. Utilize in-store price matching
Many stores you may be visiting this season offer in-store price matching or will even match/beat a competitor’s lower price.
Read through this list so you know when to ask for a better price:

  • Staples will match a lower price on an identical item and throw in an additional 10 percent discount.
  • Kohl’s will offer you the same price as a competitor as long as you bring in the competition’s ad.
  • JCPenney will give you back 5 percent of your purchase price if you find an identical item with a lower price elsewhere.

7. Use discounted gift cards
Don’t start your shopping until you check out Raise.com or GiftCardGranny.com for gift cards that give you more monetary value than you paid for them. It’s a super-easy way to save!

8. Coordinate with friends
If you’ve got a bunch of friends who are also slogging through an endless list of school supplies, see if you can work together to save more. You can divide and conquer, letting each friend shop a different store for their best offerings and picking up enough supplies for the entire group, or even offer to swap supplies you already have at home. This way, you’ll be making fewer trips and keeping more money in your wallet.

9. Follow stores on Twitter and Facebook
Your smartphone is going to be your BFF this season. Use it to follow your favorite stores on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll be gifted with notices about sale events, plus coupon links to help you save more.

10. Compare prices
When shopping for big-ticket items, like laptops, don’t buy until you’ve done a thorough comparison-shop. You can use an app or a website like ShopSavvy, Price.com or PriceGrabber to help you compare prices with just a quick barcode scan.

11. Time your shopping
For the best budget mileage, learn the markdown cycle of your favorite stores, especially clothing shops. For example, Target offers discounts on children’s clothing every Monday, TJ Maxx posts new markdowns on Wednesdays, and you’ll want to hit Kohl’s between 3 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday to take advantage of their “Power Hour” super-deals.

Your Turn:
What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments.

Learn More:
businessoffashion.com

thekrazycouponlady.com

goodhousekeeping

moneycrashers