For parents of high school students, SAT scores are a huge deal. With college admissions and scholarships on the line, paying for tutors and test prep materials may be the worth the price.
But watch out for con artists eager to take advantage. Scammers – with access to kids’ names and school information – are tricking parents into paying for bogus SAT prep materials, according to the Better Business Bureau.
How the scam works
Parents have received unsolicited calls from a person claiming to be from the College Board, the company responsible for SAT tests, or another educational organization. The caller claims to be confirming the parent’s address, so the caller can send test prep materials such as books, CDs or videos that the child presumably requested at school.
The scam seems believable. Several victims reported to BBB Scam Tracker that the caller even had their child’s name, phone number and/or school information.
Of course, there’s a catch.
The caller needs the parent to pay a deposit, sometimes several hundred dollars, for the materials. The scammer claims it will be refunded when the materials are returned.
Unfortunately, if the parent provides an address and credit card details, the materials will never arrive, and the deposit will never be refunded, according to the BBB. Scammers now have the victim’s credit card number and other personal information.
Preventing the scam
To avoid becoming a victim:
• Always be wary of unsolicited callers. If someone calls out of the blue, always research their organization before sharing personal information or agreeing to receive services or products. Look up the business the caller claims to represent at BBB.org. Search the name along with the word “scam” or “complaint” to determine whether other consumers have had negative experiences. Check BBB Scam Tracker to see if anyone else has filed a report about the company.
• Double check with your child. If scammers say they are calling because of a service a child requested, tell them you need to check with the student and hang up. Make sure their claims are legitimate before calling back or accepting a return call. The same is true for emergency scams.
• Understand the College Board’s practices. The College Board will never ask for bank or credit card information over the phone or via email. If a caller suggests otherwise, hang up. For more information on the College Board’s policies, visit privacy.collegeboard.org.
• Use a credit card when possible. Credit card companies may refund money if they spot a fraudulent charge or if one is reported in a timely manner. Victims may not be offered the same protection if they pay with a debit card or other payment options. Never agree to pay a stranger with a money wire, prepaid cards or digital wallet, such as Cash App or Venmo.
For more information, visit BBB.org/AvoidScams.
Steve McFarland is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.