College preparedness is in full swing this time of year. The Better Business Bureau warns that numerous scammers are out there “rushing” students, hoping to recruit them into the ranks of the victimized. Crooks aren’t as picky as fraternities and sororities about who they choose, either. If you’ve got a pulse, they’ll happily welcome you into their group of those who have had their money and/or their ID ripped off. BBB has identified several active scams that college students should avoid.
Students have reported receiving legitimate-appearing emails that look as though they are sent from university officials or specific professors. The message will often encourage the student to apply for an easy, flexible, part-time job with good pay. Without an in-person interview, these fake university officials or professors will “hire” the student, according to the email. Before any actual work is done, a check will follow along with instructions on how to deposit it. Students are told to buy things like gift cards and prepaid debit cards, and to send part of those purchases back to the “employer.”
Eventually, of course, the check will bounce, and the student is stuck with the consequences. The scammer makes off with the student’s money and personal information.
Fake credit cards
Many students are tempted to sign up for their first credit card as they begin their college education. BBB recommends extra caution before doing so. Many first-time credit card holders have found it too easy to overspend, and in the process, to become stuck in a tangle of debt.
There is an additional hazard as well: some of those credit card offers may be phony, simply aimed at acquiring one’s personal information. Crooks may call, text or email “offers” that are complete fakes. They lure with unusually low rates and may request an upfront charge (which is always a tip-off of a scam). Remember: you cannot trust your phone’s caller ID or an email that uses logos which appear to be legitimate. Fakes are easy to produce. Check up on any offer yourself by separately contacting the business and inquiring about it.
Students seeking affordable and conveniently located living quarters can find themselves scammed by ads such as those on Craigslist. Online “offers” may claim you should act now due to high demand. Students will then send in their credit card information to lock in an apartment without seeing the apartment. Never seal a deal without first physically viewing the place advertised. Your money could be gone forever, and that great apartment could be complete fiction.
A habit worth cultivating
The beginning of the college years is the perfect time to start a lifelong practice: regularly checking on your credit report. It’s free and available by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Many have uncovered unusual activities this way, which could have snowballed into a credit nightmare that would take months or even years to straighten out.
Check regularly with BBB’s ScamTracker at bbb.org/scamtracker to keep up with the latest reported rip-offs. College students are easy pickings for all sorts of scams, and the start of one’s college classes is a great time to study what the crooks are up to. A small investment of your time in this sort of homework will pay off for years to come.
For answers to other questions or concerns regarding scammer hazards for the college set, contact the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or visit bbb.org.