More often than not, the expense of returning to school entails far more than the cost of tuition. Students and the parents/caregivers who support them in their time of academic-induced poverty are wise to look for the best deals possible. But beware: Scammers, spammers, and phishers are looking to outsmart you at every turn.
This list of common back-to-school scams offers the perfect study guide for protecting yourself from security threats.
SMS giveaways and freebies
Congratulations! You’ve just received a text message saying that you’ve been awarded a free back-to-school shopping spree. All you have to do is visit a website, provide your email address… and you will be “rewarded” with endless emails, texts and automated phone calls from the company you’ve just given your information to.
The truth is, most companies don’t market via SMS. If you’re curious about whether the deal is legitimate, search for the company and the deal it's claiming to offer online. If you don’t see your offer listed, it’s confirmed: You’ve just been phished.
Social media scams
You know the familiar Facebook sidebar, advertising deals, offers and giveaways that seem too good to be true; and, it’s no shocker that they often are. Common back-to-school scams show up in the form of ads promising desirable mobile devices, $1000 gift cards and department store vouchers for a fraction of the price.
These seemingly unbeatable deals often lure curious Facebook users away from their newsfeeds to investigate further. They are particularly dangerous because they often only depend on the user clicking the advertisement. Then, rather than finding yourself one click away from your $19.99 iPad, you’re downloading free malware on your electronic device.
Whether they’re arriving by pop-up, sidebar or email, always inspect back-to-school internet advertisements and promotions closely. Often, a poorly constructed malicious ad will feature spelling errors, bad grammar and distorted or unfamiliar company logos and wording. But the most sophisticated scam advertisements are harder to spot since they’re often plastered with trusted-brand logos that look legit at first and even second glance.
One way to ensure the advertisement is authentic is to run the phrasing appearing in the ad along with the company name through a reputable search engine. If nothing comes up (or if the search results look just as suspicious), the ad is likely a fraud.
Scammers and phishers purposely make it easy to click your way right into a situation that compromises your private data. The best way to stay protected is to make sure your security is up to date on all devices used for web browsing. In fact, securing your tablet or smartphone might just be your best back-to-school investment.