Safety and Protection

Scams Students and Grads Should Watch Out For

Erin Palmer

September 17, 2018

A student looking for scholarships online

College students and recent graduates are among the most frequently targeted groups by scammers. People in their 20s lost more money to fraud than people over age 70, according to a 2017 report by the Federal Trade Commission.

Surprised? While many people know that seniors are often targets for scammers, younger people are also quite susceptible because scammers hone in on their specific vulnerabilities.

For example, lack of experience might make it more difficult for students to recognize a scam. Or they may be so focused on a need like scholarships or student loans that they don’t realize they’re being scammed.

College students and grads should be on the look out for these common scams:

Scholarship, Financial Aid or Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

Since paying for school is a major focus for college students, scammers have learned to exploit this through fake scholarships or financial aid scams.

Scholarship scams can happen in a number of ways. It could be a fake service that claims it can guarantee you scholarship money for a fee. Or scammers will reach out to students pretending to award them with a scholarship, but ask for a fee to release the funds or offer to deposit the funds into your account to get your account information.

Financial aid scams often demand money from students by claiming to be the bursar’s office, financial aid office or even the IRS. They claim that the student owes money and won’t be able to start the semester until the debt is paid.

Student loan forgiveness scams are similar. The scammer may claim they can get rid of your student loan debt for a fee. They then collect your money or use your personal information, but they do not actually help with your debt.

With scholarship, financial aid and student loan scams, research is the solution. Never give your personal information or any money to anyone without fully vetting them. If someone calls claiming to be your school, you can end the call and call back you school’s official phone number to make sure that you are speaking to the right person.

Card Cracking or Card Popping

With card cracking or card popping, scammers often use social media to trick people into delivering their personal information. The scammer creates a social media account that shows them with expensive goods, living it up.

Once you’re connected, the scammer messages you with an opportunity to make easy money. They get your personal information (like your PIN or online banking log in) and deposit fraudulent checks in your account. Then they withdraw the money and say you’ll get a cut of the profits.

The scammer claims that you can report your card as stolen and your financial institution will reimburse you. But that is not true!

When you give your personal information away, you are liable for the fraud. And scammers often clean out your account entirely once they have access.

Keep an eye out for an in-person variation of this scam that takes place on college campuses. A scammer pretends to be a student with a frozen account. They come to you crying and ask if you’ll cash a check for them so they will have money until their account gets unfrozen. But the check is fraudulent.

Bottom line, NEVER give out your personal information and do not take checks from strangers.

Housing Scams

In college towns, housing can be hard to come by sometimes. Scammers know this and take advantage of it to steal money from innocent students. They show you a rental that they don’t own to trick you into making a deposit, and then they take off with your money.

And if they have you fill out a rental application, they also have access to your personal information. Make sure that you never apply for an apartment or rental without looking into the details to make sure it is legitimate.

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