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From opening a spam email to answering a phone number you don’t recognize, there are many avenues for residents to be scammed out of money or personal information.

One local school district is encouraging parents to watch out for scammers as they help prepare their children for college next year. 

Scammers have been targeting parents of high school students who are graduating, according to a KLFY 10 article. They call or email parents claiming to be from an organization responsible for the PSAT and SAT tests and ask for credit card numbers so they can send prep materials the student has “supposedly” requested, according to the article. 

“There’s so much information and how do you know you’re doing the right thing how do you know this person that’s calling you or that’s emailing you is even the right person?” Better Business Bureau of Acadiana President/CEO Sharane Gott said. “That’s exactly what skeemers and scammers depend on.”

Gott said organization is essential for a parent preparing for their student’s college enrollment.

“All you have to do is take your time to do it,” she said. “The best thing if you get a call is to ask them to send you the information in the mail.” 

Cleburne High School lead counselor Glenna Pollock encourages parents to ask the caller to mail the information to their home address, which the caller should already have.

“Do not give out personal information over the phone or email,” Pollock said. “Before signing up for any kind of college preparation, do research and talk to your counselor to make sure the information is accurate. Parents or students should never pay for materials that are available for free.” 

SAT/ACT prep is available at no cost through the College Board website and the ACT website, she said. 

“College Board links with Kahn Academy to provide individualized SAT/PSAT preparation,” she said. “ACT provides ACT Academy, which is free to all students as preparation for the ACT test.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information department has nine tips residents can follow to avoid fraud:

• Spot imposters: Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust — like a government official, family member, charity or company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, phone call or an email. 

• Do online searches: Type a company or product name into a search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can seven search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

• Don’t believe your caller ID: Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

• Don’t pay up front for a promise: Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit or loan offers, mortgage assistance or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.

• Consider how you pay: Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t work. Wiring money through services is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Government officials and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

• Talk to someone: Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert or just tell a friend.

• Hang up on robocalls: If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

• Be skeptical about free trial offers: Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy, and always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.

• Don’t deposit a check or wire money back: By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank. 

For more information and other tips, visit ftc.gov. For testing preparation, visit collegeboard.org or academy.act.org.

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