Are you a college student or the parent of a young adult headed to college soon? If so, fall can be an exciting time filled with new experiences and higher learning. But fall isn’t just a time to pay tuition, buy books, settle into the dorm and make new friends.
It’s also a favorite time for scammers to trick college students out of their money or try to steal their identities with phony credit card offers, fake grants and more, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
“College students must spend money on tuition payments and school supplies as they prepare for the new year,” warns the BBB. “However, scammers are taking this opportunity to try to steal some of that money through various schemes and scams.”
Here are four of the most common financial scams targeting college students and how to avoid becoming a victim, according to the BBB.
Bogus credit cards
There are many great credit card offers aimed at college students. But that doesn’t mean every credit card offer that comes your way is legitimate. Some credit card offers could be fake, with their only purpose being to steal your Social Security number, bank account information and other personally identifiable information to be used for identity theft purposes.
Before applying for any credit offer, the BBB recommends researching the offer and the affiliated banking institution. Type the offer and bank into a search engine, along with “scam” or “rip-off.” If other college students were duped, they’re probably venting about it online.
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College students looking for affordable housing online can be easy prey for fake landlords advertising non-existent apartments or houses close to campus priced at rock-bottom rents. The same goes for social media or Craigslist ads from scammers pretending to be students looking for roommates.
Always check out the apartment in person before handing over money or credit card information to a landlord or potential roommate, warns the BBB.
Identity theft scams
Identity theft scammers are always looking for new victims. Never give out personal information like your Social Security number or bank account and credit card number to other students or unfamiliar companies or other entities.
To protect yourself against identity theft, check your credit report regularly, at least a few times a year. Watch for accounts you don’t recognize, unfamiliar inquiries for a copy of your credit report and other suspicious activity.
Fake grants and scholarships
If you receive a call, letter or email from a company that promises it can reduce your student loan payments or give you a grant, be careful. Do an online search on the company, scholarship or grant to find out if others were duped or if the offer could be legitimate.
“Read reviews and complaints about the company at BBB.org and contact the school’s financial aid office for advice and help regarding financing your education,” says the BBB.
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