If you're a parent or grandparent of a junior or senior in high school, this SCAM is for you.

Any more, each time a person answers a phone, they take a chance that the caller is looking for easy money by trying to perpetrate a scam.

Every day calls come from bogus Social Security and Medicare scammers. Calls come saying your child, grandchild, etc. has been in an accident, or has been arrested, and needs you to help by sending money STAT.

These scammers are continually coming up with ever more diabolical ways to get an honest citizen, often an older citizen, to give out their credit card or social security numbers.

They scam using the internet's FaceBook photos of people you know, who want to be "friends." It's not until later that you realize all they were after is your name, so it can be used against you to scam others.

One of the latest scams in the area starts out with a caller using the name of your child, who is a junior or senior in high school. They then report that it was your child who checked a box at school to request study materials for upcoming college testing.

Sometimes they refer to themselves as College Preparation or even make it sound more legitimate by calling it the College Preparation Foundation (or several other names).

Whichever name they use,  they are calling with information for your child who will be taking the SAT/ACT test. They promise to include important study information for college preparation. They tell you they got your child's name from the PSAT test the child took at school.

If this is the first time this family is sending a child to college, this looks like the provable ray of sunshine smiling on a very confusing time for students and parents alike dealing with grants, student loans, scholarships, and PSAT/SAT/ACT tests.

Finally, someone has offered to help, and for a small fee of $219.84, not to be charged for 30 days, and if you return the study guide and 2 CDs within the period of time, there is no charge at all. And if you are happy with the study materials, you can keep them for the $219.84.

A Shell Lake School District parent got her call around noon one day. Her child was in school at the time, so she couldn't confirm it with her that she requested further information about getting ready for her higher education.

This particular group called themselves College Preparation, which is just one of the names they use, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Where they get the kid's names, and information is still a mystery.

But, back to our Shell Lake parent, as long as they weren't going to charge her debit card for 30 days, she took a chance. She immediately got suspicious. She called another mother with a child the same age to see if maybe there was a connection and ask her if she had received a call. She hadn't. By the next day, the Shell Lake resident was at the bank closing her account. Then she contacted the Shell Lake Police and the school to see if they could give her any advice. Nothing. She went online and checked out the "company" with the BBB; it was not good news.

She called the company to cancel the very next day, and they said, "sure we can." But the account was already debited, not just on hold.

The Priority Mail box from the company came two days later. It came in her daughter's name, to make sure she received it and would open it. This woman took the box to the Post Office, and they told her they could mark it as refused as long as she hadn't opened it. Now she was making progress. By merely sending it back to the return address on the box to Rancho Cucamonga, California, she would receive her money back.

Again, wrong.

On the BBB site, she read of others who tried mailing back their un-opened boxes and found out that the address was erroneous. By the time the package arrived at the correct destination, the thirty days were up, and now that apparently gives them a right to leave that charge on the debit or credit card. Parents who had opened the box found two CDs with nothing on them or they wouldn't work on their computers. The written information was no more than anyone could get from an internet search.

Other stories on the BBB site involved an additional monthly charge of $69.95 from the company for "web access" for the ACT/SAT study information." Those who did not check their financial accounts were horrified to find that they had paid up to $500 overtime before they discovered the charge. Naturally, they are out of pocket for their losses with no recourse.

As far as our Shell Lake parent can tell, this particular scam has been running since 2016 or even longer. Her goal now is to let other parents and schools know about this very convincing scam that preys on parents who only have their child's best future in mind.  

Which leaves most of us scratching our heads and wondering, just who can you trust anymore?

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