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Make sure that SAT test-prep service for your high-schooler isn’t a scam

The latest con involves callers who want a deposit for study materials for your college-bound kid.
Parents should be leery of unsolicited offers to help students prepare for SAT tests.
Parents should be leery of unsolicited offers to help students prepare for SAT tests. [ JOE RAEDLE | Getty Images/TNS ]
Published Mar. 31, 2021|Updated Mar. 31, 2021

For parents of a high-schooler dreaming of college, the phone call might sound like a bright idea.

The caller knows your teenager’s name and school and claims to be from an educational organization such as the College Board. They’re sending test preparation materials — books, CDs, videos — to help your student hunker down and study for that SAT.

All you need to do is pay a deposit, which will be refunded as soon as the materials are returned, the caller says.

“I made a mistake and paid,” a well-intentioned parent recently reported to the Better Business Bureau.

Educate yourself, consumer advocates say, because test-prep scams are making the rounds.

In a variation of the con, the caller claims to be merely confirming your address to send you study materials your teenager already requested at school. Oh, and about that deposit.

“Unfortunately, scammers will often pose as members of educational organizations in an attempt to swindle parents,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said recently, “promising test-prep and other helpful services with no intention of delivering a product or service.”

Consumer advocates have tips for avoiding test-prep and other scams:

  • Unsolicited phone calls should put you on high alert, especially when someone wants your banking or other personal information.
  • Be especially leery of requests to pay by money wire, prepaid cards or digital wallets including Cash App or Venmo.
  • The real College Board — a variation of which is sometimes mentioned in these scams — does not ask for credit card numbers or bank account information, the Attorney General’s Office says.
  • Anytime a caller claims to be from a well-known organization or company, don’t hesitate to hang up and call that institution directly to find out if the call is legitimate.
  • If a test-prep caller claims your child requested materials at school, check with your child.
  • You can search for information on companies by using the Better Business Bureau and its scam tracker. You can also do an online search of an organization’s name along with the words “scam” or “complaint.”

“College admissions testing is stressful enough,” said a parent who discovered a recurring charge of $69.95 on a credit card and reported it to the Better Business Bureau. “Families don’t need this nonsense.”


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