College scam alert: con artists target students
How to fight back
If you know some college students who are living on their own, you'll want to make sure they know how to protect themselves from scam artists.
Ruth to the Rescue has sounded the alarm about con artists targeting adults, especially the elderly, but those crooks are also using "college versions" of their schemes to steal money from students.
The website Credit.com recently posted the scams it calls the most common on campus. If you know a college student, share this information! It could prevent someone from losing a lot of money, and most college students don't have money to lose.
1) Fake Late Tuition Calls: Beware of someone calling and telling a student that his/her tuition is late and in order to not be dropped from their classes they need to pay right then with their credit or debit card. As in similar scams, (fake IRS, fake power bill) the student should get off the phone immediately and contact the finance office, using a number they know is legitimate. If you want to be prepared in advance, make sure you know how your school will handle late payments, so you know what to expect.
2) Advanced Fees: Remind your college kid that if someone is trying to charge them a large sum of money for something they can most likely do on their own such as scholarships; debt counseling, FAFSA completion or a loan, they should hang up and speak with an adult educated on the matter right away.
3) Online Textbooks: College textbook prices can be crazy expensive and while it is smart for your student to research sites that they may be able to find the books cheaper, it is imperative that they also do their homework on these sites before buying with them. Many too-good-to-be-true sites, will simply collect your students money and deliver nothing.
4) Fake Landlords: For out of state students especially, it is very common nowadays to look online for school apartments and housing. Make sure that your student always sees the apartment in person, inside and out, checks out reviews online, and meets the landlord in person before paying any sort of apartment bill. This is also a scam used against adults, where fake landlords rent homes or apartments they don't really own. If you cannot get inside to see the place, that's a huge red flag.
5) Check Cashing: Be wary of "friends" and acquaintances who may ever ask you to cash a check for them. In this scam college students will usually take the check and give the person cash in exchange. When they go to cash the check it bounces and the original check holder is long gone with their money.
6) Beware Public Wi-Fi: College students are notorious for hitting up cafes and parks for free Wi-Fi, but it is imperative that they are aware of everything you subject your electronic device to when you join a Wi-Fi network. Load your student's computer up with password protection and encryption software before they head off to school and also remind them to never sign into sensitive accounts, such as banking, when on public Wi-Fi.
You Are Your Own Best Defense
Working with the Better Business Bureau, Ruth to the Rescue has come us with this 4-step strategy that really helps to battle any scam artist, using any scheme to try to get your money or your personal information.
It's really important that you get caller ID and train yourself to ignore any call if you don't recognize the number. Just don't answer! If it's someone you know, they will leave a message and you can call them right back. Every time you pick up a call from a scam artist, you are telling that scammer you are a live target. The same goes for strange emails, delete them! And, never click on links in emails from someone you're not 100 percent is a friend or legitimate business.
If you answer a call and someone is demanding money or personal information, resist their offers or their threats. It should become obvious that something's not right, depending on which buttons their trying to push.
"If they're really just trying to prey on my emotions or my fear, that's when you should just immediately hang up!" advises Melanie Duquesnel, CEO for the local Better Business Bureau in Southfield.
She says you never want to share personal information or make a payment, during that first point of contact, especially when that call comes out of the blue. You can listen (without sharing any of your information) but always remember to hang up and do more research!
You can also come up with a "refusal script" in your head that you can use on any scammer or aggressive sales person to reject their offers. Come up with a way to tell them you always do more research on any offer and it's just a standard procedure that you don't do business without 24 hours to consider the offer.
"You can come off politely, but at the same time firmly," said Duquesnel.
If the caller says something that catches your attention, makes you nervous, or seems worth checking out, do further research to see if what they're saying is true. Remember, never call the numbers they give you for that extra research. Find a legitimate number to call. If you keep calling them back, you could be hearing more lies.
Another good idea, google some of the key facts of the story you've been told. There is a lot of information online about scams that are making the rounds. Victims often post their stories, including the names of the scammers, the phone numbers they've used, and other details that can help you spot a scam.
Be sure to go sources beyond that first call before you spend any money.
"The initial call is never homework. If someone calls you and says 'Hey, you've won a million dollars!' and you consider that your homework, I'm going to say absolutely not! You have flunked out of the how to avoid a scammer class," said Duquesnel.
Finally, if somebody tries to scam you, tell other people so they can be on the lookout. Share you story with friends, family, and even social media so others know what kind of scams are currently making the rounds and how to spot them.
If you lose money, do not be embarrassed to tell someone. They might be able to help you stop further losses, and again, they will be on the lookout for these fast-talking criminals. It's also important to notify local police when appropriate, the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission, or whatever agency might be able to offer you assistance.
Anyone can fall victim to a scam artist, if the scammer finds the right button to push to pressure them into surrendering their money.
"You must inform. You must share and in doing so you save somebody else," said Duquesnel.
If you'd like more help from the Better Business Bureau, follow this link.
And, to read more from Credit.com, follow this link.
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