College students will be coming back to campus during the next few weeks, returning to new professors and classes, greeting old friends and meeting new ones. It's an exciting time for everyone, but especially for incoming freshmen who are beginning a new chapter in their lives.
With all the excitement and everything else on their busy plates, students may be particularly vulnerable to certain forms of identity theft and fraud. The following are based on tips recently provided by the Better Business Bureau.
Be wary of financial aid scams. These include misleading scholarship and financial aid offers, offered online or through on or near-campus seminars. A request for payment up front for a scholarship or student loan is a sure sign of a scam. Investigate any potential services or loan/debt consolidation companies by visiting www.bbb.org/en/us and by contacting Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller's office by calling 888-777-4590 (281-5926 in Des Moines). The BBB also recommends visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s website for information.
Watch out for student-specific 'work at home' scams. They might more properly be referred to a 'work in dorm' scams, but the aim is the same: targeting unemployed college students looking for work who come across too-good-to-be-true offers of ‘easy’ ways to make money. Nearly all require some form of up-front payment — a sure sign the offer is not legitimate.
Don’t fall for roommate rental scams. Posts on Craigslist looking for roommates may actually come from scammers half a world away. Always confirm exactly who you are dealing with. Never wire money or reveal personal financial data to anyone in connection with a room rental. It's an easy way for crooks to steal from you, and once you’ve wired money away, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get back. Also avoid accepting payments for more than the agreed price — a common sign of a scam — and never assume that a check is legitimate.
All of the above are frauds, but they also often include identity theft; once a student has revealed an account or credit card number to the scam artist, that information is likely to be used or sold by the scammer, opening the student to a variety of identity frauds. By being careful and knowing in advance what to watch for, college students can focus their time and effort on their studies and on having a great school year free from fraud.
This page was produced by the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance under award #2016-XV-GX-K004, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.