During this time of the year, college students are having to spend money on tuition payments and school supplies as they begin a new semester. However, scammers are taking this opportunity to try to steal some of that money through various schemes and scams.
According to BBB’s most recent Scam Tracker Risk Report, 41.6% of students reported a loss when exposed to a scam as compared to 28.3% of non-students. Data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also shows younger people aged 20 to 30 lose money to fraud more often than older consumers.
Even if a college student is not on campus due to COVID-19, scammers know how to find them. One tactic that has been used to get students’ personal information is a phishing email that claims to be from the school’s “Financial Department.” The email claims to have information about your COVID-19 economic stimulus check and instructs you to click on a link provided in the email and log in with your student username and password. Don’t do it. If you click to “log in,” you could be giving your username, password, or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device.
Whether you’re starting school yourself or have kids who are vulnerable to such scams, BBB suggests students watch out for these financial scams before heading into the new semester.
- Fake Credit Cards – It’s no secret that offers to apply for your first credit card are tempting to many students. Not only could this create credit problems for you down the road due to unchecked spending, but some of the deals could also be phony offers designed to get access to your personal information. Do your research on those credit card flyers and emails before applying. Read our BBB Tip on Credit Card Scams.
- Too Good to be True Apartments – It’s hard to not jump on a convenient apartment so close to campus, especially if it advertises affordable rent. It’s tempting to hand over credit card information online to lock in a great spot, but it’s always worth seeing the apartment in person prior to a money transfer. This also applies to Craigslist ads of other students looking for roommates.
- Safe Credit Reports – At the age of 18, it’s a good idea to start practicing some healthy money habits. One such habit is regularly checking your credit report for unusual activity and possible ID fraud. The official government website where you can safely check your credit report for free is annualcreditreport.com. From now until December 31 you can check it once a week, then once a year, at each of the three credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Scholarship and Grant Scams – Be wary of phone calls from companies guaranteeing they can help reduce loan payments or set you up with a hefty grant. Searching the company’s name online could bring up scam alerts or negative reviews from other consumers. You can look up any company at BBB.org and contact your school’s financial aid office for advice and help regarding financing your education. Scholarship scams can affect college students even after graduation; read our tips on scholarship scams.
- Employment Scams – In 2018, employment scams were the #1 culprit for scams attacking 18-25 year olds. Job offerings can be sent directly to school emails, promising flexible hours and higher than expected pay. Don’t send your social security number electronically without knowing exactly to whom you are sending it. For more information on employment scams, visit BBB’s Tips: Employment Scams.
- Awareness of Current Scams – As tech-savvy as current college students can be, a surprising number of scams reported to BBB’s ScamTracker are from students who learned their lesson too late. Use BBB’s ScamTracker to learn of the latest scam trends and read local reports of specific incidents.