While the Internet has made possible unprecedented access to quality digital course materials, it has also provided infrastructure for some to commercialize stolen content and others to scam students with too-good-to-be-true pricing. We are heading towards the start of a fall semester where the demand for affordable digital materials will be higher than ever. This presents an attractive and target-rich environment for illicit sellers.
Cost conscious students often use marketplaces such as Google Shopping, eBay, and Amazon to find the best price for their course materials. In some cases, these marketplaces are not adequately vetted, leaving the door open for unethical sellers. These bad actors go to great lengths to appear legitimate, often copying the branding and style of legitimate merchants. In some instances, these sellers will provide stolen or low-grade content. Often, however, they seek only to steal the student’s credit card or identity and do so without delivering content.
Our industry must work to protect students from such predatory practices. We can start by equipping learners with the information they need to identify illegitimate sellers so they can make safe and secure purchases. Further, they should also weigh the personal risk of transacting with fraudsters.
As a first step, we are working to raise awareness, but there’s much more to do. We look forward to partnering with our industry to make it easier and safer for students to get the affordable course materials they need to succeed.