With more students in Southwest Florida returning to classrooms this school year demand for school supplies will be high, leading to the possibility of shortages and raising concerns over online shopping scams.
In order for consumers to protect themselves, shoppers must make sure online deals are legitimate.
“What parents are challenged with at this point in time is juggling the transition from the at-home learning to the in-person learning,” said Sandra Guile with the Better Business Bureau.
There may be a shortage of supplies in stores which could lead to parents shopping online.
“This is where the scammers are finding the opportunity,” Guile said. “How can I make the most money off of this situation where people are at a disadvantage, they can’t shop and compare, to go to store to store or find it on the shelf.”
That desperation is triggering the Better Business Bureau to issue a warning about online shopping scams and urging consumers to verify third-party vendors found through ads on social media.
“If you see those pop-up ads, use some hesitation and caution with those and double-check the name of the business to make sure they’re legitimate,” Guile said.
To better protect yourself when shopping online:
- Make sure the site is secure, if it starts with HTTPS, it’s good to go
- Shop on a computer at home not somewhere with public WiFi where your information can get stolen
- Use a credit card because you’ll have additional protections to dispute charges if you don’t get the things you bought
There’s a lot of money on the line because the National Retail Federation says families will spend an average of $850 on school supplies this year
The back-to-school tax-free holiday starts on Saturday and goes until Aug. 9.
Included in the tax holiday are most school supplies under $15, clothes and shoes for less than $60, and the first $1,000 for computers and computer accessories.
Florida Retail Federation President Scott Shalley said there are many cost-saving opportunities this season.
“The state discount brings a great push, in terms of people getting out and about shopping. So, you are seeing many retailers, in this very competitive environment, that are adding extra incentives to the tax-free holiday,” Shalley said.
State economists estimate Floridians will save $69.4 million during the 10-day period.
For a list of tax-free school supplies, click here.