Better Business Bureau — 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. Scammers see this as an opportunity to sway students who are looking for better ways to manage their finances. Freshmen, freshly exposed to managing their own finances, are particularly vulnerable because they are online looking for ways to save. 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 up to age 29 loose money to fraud more often than older consumers with a median loss of $488.
Even if you are a college student who may not be on campus due to COVID-19, scammers know how to find you! One tactic that has been used to get students’ personal information is a phishing email that claims to be from your school’s “Financial Department.” The email tells you to click on a link to get a message about your COVID-19 economic stimulus check — and it needs to be opened through a portal link requiring your university login. “Don’t do it,” warns the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “It’s a scam!” If you click to “log in,” you could be giving your user name, password, or other personal information to scammers, while possibly downloading malware onto your device.
Before you click on a link or share any of your sensitive information, BBB advises:
- Check it out. If you have concerns about an email, contact the sender directly. Look up their phone number or website yourself. Don’t click on a link. That way, you’ll know you’re not about to call a scammer or follow a link that will download malware.
- Look closely. While some phishing emails look completely legit, bad grammar and spelling can be a tip-off to a phishing attempt. Another clue that the email is not really from your school is the wrong department’s name is used. In one phishing email, the scammers called themselves the Financial Dept instead of the Financial Aid Department.
Besides phishing scams, BBB suggests students watch out for fake credit card scams. It’s not a secret that deals which appear to be a quick and easy way to spend money are offered to college students to get them to apply for their first credit card. On top of the fact that this could potentially create a credit problem, some of the deals could be fake gimmicks to get access to the student’s personal information. Do your research on those credit card flyers, emails, promotions and mailers before applying. Read our BBB Tip on credit card scams.
Other scams college students should watch out for are:
- 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 listings of other students looking for roommates.
- Fake Credit Score Scam – After the age of 18, it’s a good idea to start becoming more aware of your credit score and start adapting some healthy money habits. It’s also a helpful indicator of any unusual activity and possible ID fraud. While there are multiple traps online trying to snag your Social Security number (SSN) with a fake credit score scam, safely check your credit score at annualcreditreport.com.
- Scholarship and Grant Scams – Phone calls from companies guaranteeing they can help reduce loan payments or set you up with a hefty grant are worth researching. Even searching the company online could bring up scam alerts from other victims. Contact your school’s financial aid office for advice on the company’s legitimacy or how they can help otherwise. 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 to 25-year-olds. Job offerings can be sent directly to school emails, promising flexible hours and beyond expected pay. There would be no need to send your SSN electronically without knowing exactly who you are sending it to. For more types of 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 Scam Tracker to discover the latest scam trends, read local reports of specific incidents and report a scam.
It is important to be aware of scammers looking to take advantage of others. Contact your local BBB at 800-649-6814 if you are unsure of something that could possibly be a scam.
ABOUT BBB: Better Business Bureau has been assisting U.S. consumers and businesses since 1912. It is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit BBB.org for more information.