Scams that Target Students

College students have always been like ripe fruit to marketers and scammers because they are often fresh from the cocoon of their parents watch and out on their own for the first time. This usually means they’re making decisions without Mom or Dad giving advice. Unfortunately, this can lead to some costly mistakes.

Some common scams to watch for are:

Surprise Scholarships:  This one works like any number of phishing scams. The student might receive an email or text message, perhaps even a Facebook message that congratulates them on winning a scholarship for a substantial amount of cash. To have the money directly deposited all they need to do is give their bank account number and password.

That last sentence should send out the red flags, but you might be amazed that many students fall for this promise of easy money.  Of course, if they do fall for it the scammer gets access to the student’s bank account.

Used Textbooks for Sale: College books are crazy expensive and so, resourceful students will look for ways to save or make some money.  This scam can go two ways:

1) The student seller gets a request from a buyer. The buyer sends a check for more than the asking price. The buyer asks the seller to just return the extra cash (along with some story about why the check is written for more). The seller does as requested. About a week later the buyer discovers that the check is fraudulent and has bounced, leaving the seller out the price of the book and more. The buyer cannot get in touch with the seller.

or 2) A seller posts books for sale and instructs the buyer of where to send money to receive the books. The seller never receives the goods and can no longer find the seller.

Apartment Scam: This has three scenarios:

1) This is a popular variation on the Nigerian wire scam. The student sees a listing for a great apartment at a great price. He/she emails the contact, who happens to be a missionary working in Africa (or something like that). They ask for a deposit via wire transfer and promise to send the keys. But the keys never come.

2) The student finds a nice apartment, signs a lease, and hands over a deposit and the first months’ rent. The student receives the keys and moves in — only to find out that the person they rented from has no connection to the home. Worse yet, they’re long gone.

3) The student rents a home directly from the homeowner. A few months later, the bank comes knocking on the door. The homeowner defaulted and is in foreclosure, leaving the student facing eviction.

Unfortunately these housing scams are less obvious than other types of scams. In these situations the student needs to trust their gut. They could also try talking to neighbors to get a feel for whether or not the situation is legitimate.

The best thing parents can do is educate their children and teach them how to protect their personal finances and identity. Making mistakes is part of growing up, but hopefully they won’t be mistakes that have long-lasting effects.

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