Scams Targeting College Students

Post by Adam Grossman • At 5:18 pm Friday, 9 August, 2019

Personal Growth

Scams Targeting College Students

You are officially a college student and you’ve opened doors to all of these amazing new opportunities. However, it is important to remain vigilant because now you’re a target to one of the many scams out there in the world. There are criminals who want to con you out of money, leaving you in debt or worse.

Recently, a scam was discovered in Michigan at Ferris State University. Students were receiving calls mid-August from an individual, claiming to be a college official from the college’s campus located in Big Rapids, Michigan. The tactic used here is called an urgency tactic, combined with methods to scare the students into making a payment. In this case, a threat that the student’s class(s) will be dropped. This is of course unless the student pays an outstanding “debt” that is claimed to be owed to the university. They will push that the payment be immediately paid over the phone or else the class will be dropped. The university explains in their policies that they do not do business in this manner. Students should be mindful of individuals claiming to be collecting payments on behalf of the college. The college states in their guidelines that payments to the university are only conducted in person or through the secure eBilling portal.

Scams are most likely to occur in the days leading up to the new semester, meant to take advantage of the students who are most likely preoccupied with the stresses of college preparation. Parents should make college scams the topic of discussion as their children prepare to leave for their chosen school.

A common college level scam that often conducted is a scheme that requests banking information from a student. These individuals will claim to be from the IRS and state that there is a tax being conducted on a federal level. They will require that the student pay this bogus tax, often via an iTunes gift card or personal financial information. You should always use common sense when dealing with these people and ask yourself why the IRS would call you and request payment via an iTunes gift card. They will also make claims that you can get a deal on scholarships, loans or a great rates on an apartment. IRS scammers are also known to call you from a number outside of your home state. For example, if you live in Pennsylvania, their number might show up with a New York area code. The IRS is split up by states, they will never call you from another state outside of yours. Also always remember that the IRS will never call you about a tax bill. They always mail you first, then present you with options of how to pay.

It doesn’t stop there. When college classes come to a close and the hunt for internships begin, scammers will target you claiming they found your resume on a career building website. This job will undoubtedly have a high paying salary to start and dressed up to the point where it is too good to be true and it usually is. In many cases, con artists will offer remote jobs that attempt to get you to reship stolen merchandise or money orders. This “employer” might demand that you give personal information upfront and over the phone such as your social security number, date of birth and bank accounts.

The Better Business Bureau stated in a report that you should run in the opposite direction if confronted with a job opportunity that requests money from you upfront for training or supplies. Don’t accept a job offer if they’re want to hire you without an interview either. Many jobs hire on the spot but always after a brief conversation discussing interests at least on a basic level. Scammers may even decide to pay you for an activity but then send you a counterfeit check with extra money, requesting that the extra sum be sent elsewhere. The company will request that you send the extra money back to them, which is where the scam then takes place with major consequences. Your bank account can be flagged and closed for cashing fake checks, holding you responsible for any repercussions. 

As of 2018, the Better Business Bureau report these as the Top 5 scams currently being conducted:

  1.       Employment Scams – Students get understandably excited if they receive unsolicited job offers that mention “no experience necessary”, “work from home” or a “high pay”. If asked for any personal or banking information and offered an on-the-spot job, exercise caution and always visit bbb.org to determine an employer’s trustworthiness.
  2.       Fake Checks – A common strategy scammers use is to overpay for a product or service with a check. The scammer will then request the difference by wire transfer. If depositing a check from an unknown entity, do not spend any money until the check has been verified.
  3.       Online Purchases – Online purchases account for the third most reported scam. This occurs in the search for a much-wanted book or school supply is found on sale. The student will place an order, never receiving the item. Students must look for the “s” at the end of “https” to verify a site’s security and research all businesses at bbb.org before making a purchase.
  4.       Rental and Roommate – These come in two variations. One variation is the roommate scam, in which fake “roommates” offer to provide rent upfront, often in the form of a check or money order. Similar to the fake check scam, the student receives a higher value followed by a request to wire back the remainder. The second form occurs in the search for off-campus housing. Students should always visit the property first or use a reputable rental company.
  5.       Student Loans – This scam involves receiving calls from a company when applying for college, with the promise of lower interest rates on a loan after a fee is paid. This also happens after graduation, except it is loan forgiveness that is promised instead of the latter. Students are never required to pay a fee to receive funds for college, as this is provided by the government.

 If you fall victim to the aforementioned scams, there are organizations that you can contact to help deal with these situations. The Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission are both available to accept complaints regarding scams and help you report the companies using them. To read more informative and helpful articles, please take a moment to subscribe to our page to receive notifications for our weekly blog.

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