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Six Scams That Target Students

By K-Staff

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It’s almost time to go back to school, and as the high school class of 2022 becomes the college freshmen of 2023, they have new responsibilities to address: their class schedules, where to stay, tuition…and finances.

Scammers are always looking for easy marks, and people who don’t have a complete set of experiences in the outside world – like college students – are often ideal targets.

However, if you stay vigilant, you can avoid falling prey to these six common scams that target young people:

1. Rental Listing Scams

You see an ad for what looks like the perfect apartment – the property manager can’t show you the place, but you can secure it by mailing or wiring a deposit. You send the money – and then find out that the ad was a scam. Good-bye deposit, good-bye money.

Signs of a Scam

  • They ask you to wire money. If they ask you to wire money, the listing is almost certainly illegitimate.
  • They want a deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen.
  • They can’t meet you in person or can’t show you the property. If you can’t put a face to a name, don’t put cash to an agreement.

Be wary: if any part of the rental listing appears too good to be true, it usually is.

2. Scholarship / Grant Scams

You’re contacted by phone or e-mail, saying that you’ve earned a grant or a scholarship – all you need to do is make an up-front payment for processing. However, the scholarship / grant money never materializes.

Signs of a Scam

  • They ask for an up-front fee for applications.
  • They guarantee your scholarship or grant.
  • They say you’re a finalist for a contest you never entered.

Legitimate companies that sell information about scholarships never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.

3. Unpaid Tuition Scams

Someone claiming to be a representative of your college or university calls to say your tuition payment is late, and that you’ll be dropped from your classes unless you pay immediately over the phone.

Signs of a Scam

  • You’re being contacted by phone initially. Most higher-education facilities will contact you by mail when inquiring about past-due bills.
  • They are asking for immediate payment.
  • They ask for money via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.

If you have any suspicions at all about these requests, hang up and contact your school’s financial aid office through a verified phone number from the school’s website or official correspondence. They can verify whether you have an issue with your tuition and assist appropriately.

4. Counterfeit Check Cashing

Someone gives you a cashier’s check – usually for more than they owe. They ask you to deposit the check and return the extra funds. However, the check turns out to be counterfeit, and by the time your bank discovers that, the money is in the scammer’s hands.

Signs of a Scam

  • It’s from someone you don’t know, or only just met.
  • The check is for more than the selling price of an item.

Never return the amount overpaid until you have confirmation that a check has fully cleared. Better yet, don’t deposit a check that is for more than you are owed in a transaction.

5. Job Scams

You see a job posting that offers great benefits, flexible hours, above-average pay – but you need to pay an up-front fee to move through the interview process or secure the position. In some cases, they even ask for sensitive personal information, such as your Social Security number.

Signs of a Scam

  • They ask you to pay an application fee.
  • They make an offer before you interview.
  • The job makes promises like “be your own boss”, “set your own schedule”, etc.

Again, if they are asking for money, or making promises of rewards with little effort, walk away.

6. Sweepstakes / Giveaway Scams

You receive a call, e-mail, or message on social media that claims to be from a company that distributes sweepstakes or lottery winnings. Congratulations! You won! Just need to pay a processing fee – where have we heard that before? – to claim your prize. Oh, and if you give us your bank account or credit card information, we’ll deposit the winnings directly to you. How convenient!

Signs of a Scam

  • You’re being contacted for a sweepstakes or lottery that you did not specifically enter.
  • You have to pay to get your prize.
  • They tell you paying them increases your odds of winning.
  • You have to give your financial information.

Legitimate contests and sweepstakes are free, and winning happens by chance. It is illegal for them to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning.

What can you do if you've been targeted?

Call the police and file reports with relevant local authorities. Many state attorneys general websites have detailed information on scams, and online forms to file consumer complaints specifically for these issues.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Document everything about the incident. The more information you have, the better you will be able to assist in an investigation by law enforcement.

Alert your bank or credit union about the scam. Although recovery of lost funds isn’t always possible, your alert may be able to help others avoid being scammed.

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Due to scheduled system maintenance, Online and Mobile Banking will be intermittently unavailable on Saturday, July 23 from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Sunday, July 24. 

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