In August, almost 20 million students will either begin or return to college. Many of these first-time students are leaving home for the first time and will have to face new challenges on their own.Some of these challenges include fraudulent practices that attempt to prey on their finances. According to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, younger adults aged 18 to 24 are the most susceptible and vulnerable targets with 41.6 percent of students reporting a loss when exposed to a scam, compared to just 28.3 percent of non-students.
BBB shares the five riskiest scams reported that scholars should be aware of:
Employment Scams - Looking for a job can be a daunting process. It is easy for students to get excited when they receive unsolicited job offers mentioning “no experience necessary”, “work from home” or a “high pay”. However, these offers are almost always too good to be true. 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.
Fake Checks - The BBB study found the largest group of victims of fake check frauds are in their early twenties with losses hitting harder, as they are not used to this payment method. One strategy scammers use is to overpay for a product or service with a check. The scammer will then tell the student to send him or her the difference by wire transfer. When depositing a check from an unknown entity refrain from spending until the check has been verified. Be immediately suspicious of overpayments and never wire or send money to someone you do not know.
Online Purchase Scams - According to BBB Scam Tracker, online purchases account for the third most reported scam. This may occur when consumers go online and find a much wanted book or school supplies offered at a huge discount. The student will place an order through the website but never receive the purchased items. 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.
Rental and Roommate Scams - These scams are particularly prevalent through online classified websites. One such variation is the roommate scam, in which fake “roommates” offer to provide rent upfront, often in the form of a check or money order, despite living out of town. Similar to the fake check scam, the student will receive a payment, higher than required, be asked to cash the check and wire back the difference. Unfortunately, the original check or money order will bounce and they will be held responsible for any money transferred. Students should meet with roommates in person and never wire money to a stranger. The second form of rental scam may occur when students search for housing off-campus. Some rental properties posted online are not real. Making a visit to the rental, before making any deposits or using a reputable rental company can help avoid potential fraud.
Student Loan Scams - When students seek a private loan, it is important to know who they are doing business with and what are the terms. Students should not pay a fee for help in finding money for college, as this information is provided by the government. Scammers may also target those graduating with loans, promising debt forgiveness and lowered interest rates. Do not pay up front, fall for promises of immediate relief, debt cancellation or believe claims of a special connection with federal student loan programs. The U.S. Department of Education provides help for free. Just call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) or visit the government's student loan website.