August can be an expensive month for students returning to colleges and universities. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota has some tips to make sure scammers don’t make the start of school even more expensive for those paying tuition, figuring out student aid and buying school and dorm supplies.
According to BBB’s 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, nearly 42 percent of students reported a loss when exposed to a scam as compared to 28 percent of non-students. Students, who are freshly exposed to managing their own finances, are online looking for ways to save. Whether you’re starting school yourself or have kids who could be vulnerable to financial scams as they get started living on their own, BBB suggests watching out for these very red flags:
• Fake Credit Cards – It’s no secret that college students are targeted with these as a quick and easy way to get money. Some credit card deals could be a fake gimmick to get a student’s personal information, and it could potentially stir up credit problems. Do your research on those credit card flyers and read the fine print before applying.
• Too Good to be True Apartments – An affordable, conveniently located apartment close to campus sounds like a great deal, but don’t jump on it until you’ve viewed the apartment in person. And never give out credit card or other payment information until after you’ve viewed it and signed a lease.
• Fake Credit Reports - 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 signifier of any unusual activity and possible ID fraud. While there are multiple traps online trying to snag your social security number with a fake credit score scam, you can 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 the school’s financial aid office for advice on the company’s legitimacy or how they can help otherwise.
• Employment Scams - In 2018, employment scams were the No. 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 a social security number electronically without knowing exactly who you are sending it to.
• Awareness of Current Scams - As tech savvy as current college students can be, a surprising number of scams reported to BBB’s ScamTracker (bbb.org/scamtracker) are from students who learned their lesson too late. Use Scam Tracker to learn of the latest scam trends and read local reports of specific incidents.