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Beware of back-to-school shopping scams

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VANCOUVER -

Many of you may be doing your back-to-school shopping online this year but beware. You may find yourself purchasing a product that never arrives or receive something that is inferior to what you thought you had purchased.

Look-a-like websites often piggyback on legitimate business websites by using the same logos and page layout but if you check closely, you may find that something is off in the URL. Fake websites by design trick you into buying substandard merchandise or may completely take your money without sending any product at all. They are also used to gather your personal information.

"When you do make a purchase on that website, it's not going to the legitimate business, it's going to the scammer along with your personal information and the money that you spent to get that product," explained Karla Laird, Better Business Bureau of Mainland B.C.

Some red flags include pop-up ads on social media, prices that seem too low to be true and unfamiliar websites.

Take some time to examine the URL, contact information and double check in map programs and elsewhere to verify whether the retailer exists in the location stated by the website.

If you are planning on doing in-store shopping, many will have deep discounts on some items but overall Consumer Reports has found that the basic school supplies do not differ too widely in prices from one store to the next.

If you are looking for even better deals, see if you can hold off making some purchases on items like clothing until October. You may find better deals along with early Black Friday sales.

In addition, do not forget to mention to the clerk at the checkout counter that you are buying school supplies. They are exempt from provincial sales tax in B.C.

Click here for a complete list of tax-exempt school supplies. 

If you are shopping online for school supplies and end up being charged B.C. PST on a tax-exempt item, you may have to apply for a refund, which can be a slow process. Click here for information about how to do that.

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