Each year, an estimated $50 billion is lost to scams in the United States alone. According to the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, consumers ages 18 to 24 are three times more likely than seniors to fall victim to a scam. With college students being the primary targets for scams, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) has some useful tips for college students and their parents.
“Unfortunately, college students make the perfect target for scammers due to their vulnerability and lack of experience,” said Mallory Wojciechowski, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving NC. “It's important for parents and students to be informed about the scams that are out there so they can avoid losing money or letting sensitive information get into the wrong hands.”
Top scams affecting college students:
Roommate and Rental Scams. The average cost for room and board in 2018–2019 was $11,140. In an effort to save money, many students opt for off-campus housing. If you post an ad for a roommate through online classifieds, 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, but when you cash it, the check bounces and you’re out the difference.
Scholarship Scams. Students and parents looking for scholarships and grants to pay for college can unfortunately lead them to pay for services that are nothing more than scams. Some scholarship-finding services “guarantee” that they can find you extra scholarships or grants – be aware that no one can guarantee that you will receive a grant or a scholarship. In other instances, services that state they need your credit card or bank account number to “hold a scholarship” could drain your bank accounts and lead to identity theft. Finally, if a service says a scholarship will cost money upfront, do research to make sure this is a legitimate scholarship before paying any application fees.
Employment Scams. Beware of ads that pop up near campus offering jobs with “no experience necessary.” Often, these “opportunities” are bogus. If you’re interviewed in a hotel lobby or required to sign a contract, or have to pay for training, travel, lodging, food, etc. associated with the job, forget it! Check out a business first at bbb.org.
Tech Support Scams. Many students use a laptop and scammers are aware of this. A popular scam appears as a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from a reputable tech support source such as Microsoft or Apple, alerting you to a problem or security breach. To fix the “problem” you must give remote access to the caller. Don’t be fooled by this - THEY are the security breach. Once given access, they can install malware on your computer and steal personal information.
Illegal Downloads. Over the course of a year, the average college student spends more than $1,200 on books and materials. While it may be tempting to save money by downloading free textbooks, many of these sites contain malware that can end up causing financial havoc.
Counterfeit Products. Counterfeit products are common at pop-up stores and marketplaces where scammers can sell items that claim to be a certain brand without fear of getting caught. Shopping for brand-name products at these locations sounds like a better deal than purchasing from a reputable website or store, however it’s only cheaper because it’s manufactured differently, which could result in faulty products.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org