Scams targeting college students

Scammers are increasingly targeting college students. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that students lost nearly $520 million to fraud in 2022. The scams come in many forms, and scammers will often rely on creating a sense of urgency to get you to act without thinking. However, when you know the signs, scams are easier to avoid. Here are five of the common scams pulled on college students and how to avoid them.

Help pay your tuition scams. There are many types of scams that pose as legitimate offers for scholarships, grants and financial aid. Often the student is contacted by phone, mail or email with a great offer and is asked to provide personal information that can be used to steal the student’s identity. Frequently the student is asked to pay a fee up front with a payment made by money wire, cryptocurrency or gift cards.

TIP: Steer clear of scams by completing your financial aid application on the official FAFSA website. If you are applying for scholarships, create a spreadsheet to keep track of which scholarships you have applied for. You should never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call with a reputable organization.

Unpaid tuition scam: The scammer contacts the student or the parents, claiming that the tuition bill has been unpaid and that payment needs to be made immediately to prevent  affecting the student’s enrollment. 

TIP: Before you make a payment, call the school’s financial aid office and verify if this is true. The school would most likely send a paper bill before calling and threatening the need for immediate payment.

Fake employment offers: Scammers prey on college students, promising them a job online and ways for them to make quick and easy money. The company will either ask the students for money up front or send them a check for their work and ask them to send a portion back to the company.

TIP: Beware of unsolicited job offers. Be careful of online forms requesting personal information as part of the application process. Check that the business has a website and that the person you are communicating with is coming from the same domain. Check to be sure the form is posted on the business website that is requesting the information. Do not agree to a background check unless you have met the employer in person.

Buying books online scam: Scam artists set up fake websites and offer great deals on expensive textbooks, only to never deliver the textbook.

TIP: The best way to avoid textbook scams is to purchase your textbooks through your college bookstore or the publishing company associated with the textbook. Many university bookstores offer buy-back programs at the end of the semester, so you can also get used books at a lower cost. Additionally, some campus libraries keep textbooks on hold that you can check out for several hours at a time.

Fake listings for off-campus housing: The scammers pose as an individual or property manager renting out a property. Potential renters are asked for money in exchange for promises that the homes will be shown to them or rented to them. After the payment is received, the prospective tenant realizes that there either is no property to rent or the property listed is already occupied.

TIP: Fraudulent ads are usually “too good to be true.” The unit typically fits all the amenities/categories at a bargain price in order to appeal to most apartment hunters and bring in potential victims. Beware of high-pressure tactics and landlords who request little information about you. Never rent sight-unseen. Meet the landlord in person. Demand a written lease that identifies the owner or management company and have it reviewed by someone with experience with apartment leases.

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