Monthly Archives: August 2016

Scams Targeting College Students

The first year of college brings new challenges and opportunities. College opens doors for you that may be life changing, but it may also open the door to scammers that want to take advantage of you. Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Oklahoma warns college students to be aware of scams targeting unsuspecting young adults.

Here are several scams targeted at those attending college and our advice on how to avoid them:

  • Roommate/Rental scheme – If you post an ad for a roommate on Craigslist, beware of “fake roommates” who are out of the country, but can provide the rent upfront in the form of a money order. When you receive it, the amount is higher than the amount requested. You are asked to cash it and wire back the rest. This is a scam!
  • Employment – Beware of ads that pop up near campus offering jobs with “no experience necessary.” Often, these “opportunities” are bogus! If you are interviewed in a hotel lobby or required to sign a contract, or have to pay for everything, including training, travel, lodging, food, etc. associated with the job, forget it! Check out a company first at bbb.org.
  • Scholarship/Grants – Scholarship-finding services “guarantee” grants or scholarships. They sell lists to students of potential scholarship or grant opportunities. However, nearly all available financial aid comes from the federal government or individual colleges. Go to grants.gov for more information.
  • Online Shopping Deals – You see a much-wanted item for a steep discount online. One you could not usually afford. The catch? The site asks you to wire payment to them instead of using a credit card – a huge red flag. Once the money is sent, the item is never received.
  • Cheating Supplies – Students can find term papers and test questions and answers, but universities are increasingly using new software like Turnitin, fake websites, and spy cameras to track down dishonest students. Don’t cheat yourself out of learning!
  • Illegal Downloads – It may be tempting to save money by downloading free music, movies, or textbooks, but many contain spyware that can end up causing financial havoc.
  • Locksmith Scams – College students may accidently themselves out of their homes or cars. If this happens to you, you probably will use your cell phone or the local yellow pages to find a nearby locksmith. The problem is, some disreputable locksmiths will post bogus addresses in their yellow page ads to make them appear local when they’re not.

Here are a few other ploys to watch out for:

  • Credit Cards – While it is important to build credit, it is more important to maintain good credit. Many of these cards have annual fees or charge high-interest rates on purchases. Shop around for the best rate and pay off your credit card bills every month.
  • Trial Offers – From fitness club memberships to magazine subscriptions to acne medicine, diet pills, or free DVDs and CDs, know how much these products and services are going to cost you once the “Free Trial Offer” expires.
  • Safeguard Your ID – Keep your personal information, including your driver’s license, student ID, debit cards, credit cards, and bank information in a SAFE place. Be wary of any online solicitations, emails, social media sites, or phone calls asking for your personal information. NEVER give out personal information to someone you do not know.
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Prevent College ID Theft

“Identity theft can affect penniless students as much or more than their parents,” said Michelle L. Corey, St. Louis BBB President and CEO. “Sometimes all thieves want is to exploit your clean credit record. By establishing good habits for monitoring and detecting fraud, students can establish healthy financial habits for the rest of their lives.”

BBB recommends that college-bound students take the following steps to fight identity theft on campus:

  • School mailboxes are not always secure and often can be accessed easily in a dorm or apartment. To combat sticky fingers in the mailroom, have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address, such as a parent’s home or a post office box.
  • Important documents should be stored under lock and key. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred any paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out. Also shred any credit card offers that come in the mail.
  • Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they are a friend. Just say no if your friend wants you to cosign for a loan or financing for items like a TV.
  • Make sure your computer, laptop or tablet has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from new schemes or hacks by identity thieves online.
  • Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. The sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run. Getting your statements online is more secure, but make sure you actually look at the statements.
  • When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always check the company out first with BBB. Look for a BBB Accredited Business seal along with other trust seals; click on the seals to confirm that they are legitimate.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

Excerpted from: http://www.bbb.org/stlouis/news-events/news-releases/2016/07/bbb-tips-to-help-college-students-protect-against-id-theft/