College students called 'the perfect target' for scammers

Diane Wilson Image
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

College students are back on campus and that means scammers are also back trying to take advantage of any opportunity.

Research shows college students are more likely to fall victim to a scam than senior citizens.

The Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina provides tips to make sure college students keep their money and identity safe.

Last year, ten NC State students lost $58,000 in a scam.

"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 N.C. "BBB research has found consumers aged 18 to 24 are more than three times as likely as seniors to not recognize a scam."

Top scams affecting college students according to the BBB:

Roommate and Rental Scams- 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, those are big red flags.

Tech Support- 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- College students spends big bucks 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. Make sure the website you're using is secure. The URL (web address) should start with "https://" and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.