Get educated on back-to-school scams

By Dick Eppstein - Better Business Bureau

Children will begin returning to school starting in August and continuing into September. While parents may be focusing on getting the best deals on school supplies, some may be asked to help raise money for class projects, trips and other activities that are being planned for the upcoming school year. These activities can range anywhere from field trips to selling chocolates to holiday gift wrapping.

If you are asked to help your school by volunteering and perhaps even managing the fundraising activities, here are some tips from BBB:

· Set specific goals or plans before you start to raise funds. What is the total amount needed and how much time do you have to raise it?

· Make sure the school informs parents either online or in hard copy (preferably both) with any needed instructions about the campaign. Send notices out several times if possible.

· Review the fundraising promotions created to make sure they accurately and adequately explain the nature of the school activities being funded.

· Identify who will be in charge. Usually, a specified parent or other volunteer will keep track of collecting and recording of donations received. They should keep close contact with the teachers or principal to be sure the school knows the progress of the campaign.

· Share information with parents and other volunteers about how much was raised. Regular communication is vital.

· Appreciate the generosity of contributors by sending emails and/or thank you notes to them.

· Create a feedback form that will help identify needed improvements to do even a better job next time.

Every year BBB sees emails or mailings asking parents and local businesses to purchase ads in school calendars or athletic programs for fall sports like high school football and basketball. Warning! Some of these appeals are fake.

They come from companies in other cities but are designed to look like they came from your local school. Businesses especially are fooled by these scammers. They think they are supporting their local school but the money never reaches the school. Before buying an ad in a school athletic program, verify that it really benefits your local school. Call the principal or athletic director first.

There are online giving platforms that help raise money for classroom projects. A school or teacher may consider posting a request on such sites to raise money for a designated need. If so, review the site’s procedures and rules to clearly understand how your support can help.

We at BBB strongly encourage helping our local schools by volunteering and participating in projects that benefit all of our children. We just encourage making sure that the projects are well run and transparent on their goals and on the progress they are making.

Dick Eppstein is president of the Better Business Bureau, serving Northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.

By Dick Eppstein

Better Business Bureau