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Identity Theft Scams that Target College Students

June 22, 2017

Congratulations! Your son or daughter is off to college. You moved them into the dorm, said slightly tearful goodbyes, reminisced on the way home about how fast they’ve grown up, and now you can relax, right? Well, before you get too comfy, you need to do some continuing education of your own. Unfortunately, college students and their families are targets for a lot of scams. Your kid is busy adjusting to dorm life, class schedules, and having to do their own laundry. They’re not going to be brushing up on this stuff, so you need to stay informed.

Here are some things to warn them about next time they call home for money or advice:

  • Scholarship and loan scams: Watch for services that charge fees to process financial aid or scholarship applications, or offers to erase student loans for a fee. At best, these are frauds to steal money; at worst, they are stealing personal information for identity theft.
  • Non-existent rentals: In this scam, a crook shows students a property they don’t actually own, takes a deposit, and then disappears. Affordable housing is scarce in many parts of the U.S., so kids may see pictures of an apartment or rental house online and jump at a good price without checking out the renter.
  • Job scams: Students can always use a little extra money, so scammers offer them part-time jobs such as door-to-door sales, house painting, etc. In many cases, the student makes no money because they have to pay hundreds of dollars for the products they are demonstrating, or they have to go door to door on their own time looking for painting jobs. In some cases, the job applications are just a way to steal kids’ personal information.
  • Credit card scams: Scammers will set up booths on campus, at concerts, etc., and offer students free stuff in return for filling out a credit card application. There are many legitimate companies doing the same thing, so it’s an easy way for them to blend in. What the scammers are really doing is gathering personal information so they can get credit cards or loans in the student’s name.

And speaking of kids calling home for money, that is one of the most common scams against college students’ families. The thief finds relatives, often grandparents, on the student’s Facebook page and sends a message, supposedly from young Ashley or Tyler, saying that they are in jail due to a misunderstanding, their pocket was picked on their semester abroad, or their spring break ride took their money and left them stranded. The ending is always the same: please send money. So warn your relatives to be on guard, and if in doubt, call your kid on their cell phone.

In all these cases, scammers count on an emotional response. But we go to college to learn critical thinking, so when faced with the unexpected or the too-good-to-be-true, apply some critical thinking of your own, and teach your kid to do the same.

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