4 Tips for College Students – How to Avoid Common Scams

Written by Laura Mael, SW Regional Director, BBB Serving Wisconsin

8/30/2016 8:45:00 AM

4 Tips for College Students – How to Avoid Common Scams

College students are intelligent young adults. As parents, we assume that means they are capable of avoiding the schemes of scammers – they know better than that, right? Not necessarily. They might know all about the latest piece of technology and how to use it or know how to solve the quadratic equation, but knowing that not everything online is true and that not every person is trustworthy– well, sometimes they don’t always know that.  In their rush to be independent and on their own, they often fall prey to nefarious tricksters who rely on their willingness to trust first and ask questions later.

The most recent scam against college students involves callers posing as government representatives (or even FBI agents) claiming that the student is delinquent on their student loans, taxes or even overdue parking tickets.  Students have even been threatened by callers with arrest or not being able to graduate from school if these fees are not paid immediately.

In an attempt to make these claims appear credible, the caller claims to have specific student information and uses a telephone number that is “spoofed” to look like a real FBI field office.  Students can easily fall victim to this scam because of the high pressure tactics used by the scammer.

This is only one example of a long list of scams targeting college students: scams related to non-existent scholarships, social media, identity theft and credit card rip-offs – anything that might scare the student into sharing personal information.

But, it doesn’t have to be scary.  Here are some great tips to keep students alert, safe and smart when it comes to common scams:

  1. The FBI does not call private citizens requesting money (neither does the IRS or any other government agency). They will put their request in writing and typically send it by certified mail or a real officer will come knocking on your door and “serve” you with papers. (If this happens, be sure to see their credentials or dial 911 to verify that the person in front of you really is an officer).
  2. Never give out unsolicited requests for personal information to callers that you don’t know.  Ask for it in writing, and then call someone to help you verify the company is real.  A friend, family member, the police department (use the non-emergency number of course!) or the Better Business Bureau in your area bbb.org/wisconsin or (414) 847-6000.
  3. Know that there are people waiting to rip you off. Unfortunately, scammers are ever-present today, coming door-to-door, calling your phone, or online.
  4. Question anything that doesn’t feel right or that you are unfamiliar with.  If the caller is unwilling to answer your questions that should be the first “red flag” so pay attention!

Who to contact if you or your college student suspect they are being scammed? Your local Better Business Bureau is a great place to start!  Go online or call us to research before you fall victim to common scams like these: bbb.org/wisconsin or (414) 847-6000.

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