By Summer Stephan
Getting your kids into a good college is a stressful journey for both parents and students, especially when it comes to the prep work that goes into getting a good score on college entrance exams. Numerous companies have capitalized on this stressful time by offering programs to help students study for the SAT or ACT test. Unfortunately, rogue actors have infiltrated this growing market and are impersonating test prep companies to swindle unsuspecting parents out of their credit card number and personal information.
Here’s how you can identify suspicious companies and avoid falling into a college prep scam:
- If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the College Board – the organization responsible for the PSAT and SAT tests – do not give out personal information. Instead hang up. College Board representatives will only make calls to families in response to inquiries made by students.
- Some scammers will email or call asking for credit card or personal information in exchange for test prep materials. Do not give out personal or financial information. This “cold-call method” is a common strategy currently being used to scam parents.
- Scammers often have the name, address and other personal information of those they call to make themselves more believable. If you did not personally contact a known test prep company asking for test materials, then the caller is likely trying to swindle you.
- Requests for payment through a money wire, gift card or reloadable credit cards are scams.
- If you receive an offer from a test prep company, always research the company. Start by asking your student’s school counselor to confirm the company’s reputation.
- If you receive a call from the College Board, verify they are trying to reach you by calling them yourself. Scammers use technology to make any phone number they want appear on caller ID.
- Even when purchasing services from a legitimate company, always read the fine print.
If you received a phone call from a scammer or were scammed by one, here are steps you can take to report them and avoid falling for one again:
- Report the company at the Federal Trade Commission.
- Report the scammers to the attorney general.
- Contact your bank and report the transaction.
With the fall semester just kicking into full gear, students and their parents have enough to worry about between after-school activities, maintaining a high GPA and getting into college. Preparing for college exams shouldn’t involve getting scammed. Best wishes to your college-bound child. Remember, each student has his or her own path to success and California has excellent community colleges that can pave the way for a university.
The DA’s Consumer Protection Unit is made up of deputy district attorneys, investigators and paralegals dedicated to protecting consumers and law-abiding businesses from fraudulent or unfair business practices. To report a consumer complaint, you can call 619-531-3507 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Summer Stephan is San Diego County District Attorney.