Beware of scams that target college students!
Written by: Lisa Phelps for Student Choice
As a new college student, you may be the target of some unlawful folks looking for money, trying to steal your identity or hoping to cause you a lot of unnecessary hassle. International students, who are busy learning about a new country and its culture, are particularly vulnerable to scams, so it’s important to be wary, especially when the topic of visas or immigration is used to get your attention.
Tips to keep your money safe:
- If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t share social security, passport numbers, or other personally identifiable information over the phone. If you do – make sure you know who you’re talking to and that you called them. Some scammers call you and pretend to be your financial institution or credit card company.
- Report scams to your school or the Better Business Bureau so other students won’t become victims, too. If you catch a financial scam, it’s also a good idea to notify your credit union or bank
Most common scams college students encounter:
- Telephone and internet scams aimed at international students – Someone posing as an immigration officer will ask for money for a temporary visa so the student can stay in the country. Scam artists may say the student’s paperwork wasn’t completed correctly or that they’re the target of a criminal investigation.
- Scholarship scams – Nefarious scholarship programs might ask for an application fee. It’s much more common to require a certain GPA, participation in clubs, extra-curricular activities or volunteer experience. If there’s an upfront fee to apply, run in the other direction!
- FAFSA scams – There are websites that charge a fee for help completing your FAFSA. (Remember the first word in FAFSA is FREE!) These sites aren’t affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education which oversees the FAFSA. All the free help you need is available at www.fafsa.org. There are certainly a handful of reputable companies you can hire to complete the FAFSA for you, but it’s very manageable on your own for free.
- Credit Card scams – Sure you’re anxious to get your first credit card, but double check to make sure it’s from a legitimate card issuer. Con artists may be trying to steal your identity or hit you with hidden fees and high interest rates.
- Social Media scams – Some students have been fooled by fake college Facebook pages or websites. There creators may be trying to get personal information like email addresses and phone numbers. You may be hit with a ton of spam email or have your identity stolen.
- Employment scams – Be wary of offers to sell magazines door-to-door or to work from home. You may be paid only for what you sell or you might not get paid at all. Sometimes the charity the organization claims to be raising money for doesn’t even exist. They may also charge upfront fees for training or job materials.
- Apartment scams – If you don’t live where you’ll be going to school and can’t visit an apartment, don’t sign a lease! Someone may be trying to lease you an apartment that doesn’t actually exist or is unhealthy to live in. They may even try to entice you with a great rental price or offers of no security deposit. If you’re looking online, keep records of all emails, names, phone numbers, etc. Never send a payment to a landlord before you or a trusted friend has confirmed the apartment’s existence and condition.
Take Caution First
Remember: Be cautious. Don’t divulge personal information too easily and ask your friends, older siblings or parents for advice if you’re unsure about something. If you fall victim to a scam, remember to report it to your school so they can alert other students.
If you’re still looking for a trust-worthy local lender for your student loan, consider your credit union. If you don’t have one, or to find yours, just click below.