The New York State Division of Consumer Affairs is urging...

The New York State Division of Consumer Affairs is urging parents and guardians to be on the lookout for bogus back-to-school deals online. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

New Yorkers are urged to be on alert for online scams targeting children and their shopping parents or guardians this school year, state officials said Thursday, also noting ways to protect privacy amid increased use of web-based classroom technology.

The state Division of Consumer Protection advises anyone shopping online for children's clothes or school items to make sure a website is secure with the padlock symbol by "the URL or the https."

“Back-to-school shopping is the second largest spending event for parents, after the holidays, which makes it critically important for parents to know how to safeguard against scams to protect their privacy and finances,” said New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez in a new release from the state Division of Consumer Protection.

If an advertisement on a website boasts of “extremely low prices or discounts beyond 50 percent," the release said, "consumers should be wary and diligently verify the legitimacy of the seller." 

Rodriguez urged parents to stay informed on websites their children use for classwork.

“As more and more schools use technology as a teaching tool," he said, "parents should know what information is being obtained from their student and how to protect their children’s identity and privacy.”

Under New York State education law, education technology companies are forbidden from requiring parents and schools to allow “comprehensive surveillance of children for kids to use those learning tools,” the release said.

A child does “not have to give up their privacy rights” to do schoolwork, Rodriguez said.

Parents and guardians should ask after-school organizations and sports clubs how records are secured, along with only putting full names inside books, backpacks and lunches. Also, consumers should discuss internet safety tips with their children and instruct them on how to recognize suspicious attachments and emails.

Information is available by contacting the Consumer Assistance Helpline at 800-697-1220, which is available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection.

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