College students are often the intended targets of scams.
Even the brightest students can become victims of fraud, or loss money to a scam. Fortunately, you don’t have to face life unprepared. A little basic knowledge and a bit of caution can help students avoid falling victim.
Here are a few of the most common college scams and how to avoid them.
- Someone called and told me I won a scholarship and they needed my account information to deposit the money. Warning! This is a common scam.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming that they need information to process an application, disconnect the call immediately. It's completely unnecessary for a legitimate scholarship provider to ask you to provide a credit card, bank account or social security number.
You may find a scholarship website with beneficent tools created for the purpose of helping students find financial aid. However, this could actually be a trap. When cruising the net for financial awards, proceed with caution. A site that asks for personal information should be regarded with suspicion. Many will ask for an e-mail address only to sell that address and pump it full of spam.
- You don’t have to pay for help finding money for college!
Paying for a service that helps you find or apply for scholarships is rarely beneficial and does nothing you couldn’t do for yourself. Commercial financial aid advice services can cost well over $1,000. Find and apply (opens new window) for as many scholarships as you can on your own.
Remember! Assess each award’s legitimacy before submitting an application.
Completing and submitting the FAFSA® form is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.
You can complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov (opens new window), and learn about other FAFSA filing options at www.fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm (opens new window). You also can call 1-800-4-FED-AID.
Learn more about scholarship scams and federal student aid (opens new window) to fund education beyond high school at StudentAid.gov (opens new window).
Social Media Scams
Social media can be addicting. Scam artists have seized this as an opportunity to feed on unsuspecting students.
One such technique involves scammers setting up fake pages for universities and reaching out to the college’s students to acquire e-mail addresses. Phony pages and profiles are created to harvest personal information. This sort of scam means an inbox full of spam or could result in identity theft.
- To avoid these scams, add only friends you know, limit the information you post online, and be wary of invitations to “like” pages.
Credit Card Rip-Offs
The credit card world is filled with scams, and college students, being new to the credit game, are particularly susceptible.
Be wary of signing up for cards from issuers you’re not familiar with–and not only credit cards, but prepaid debit as well. You risk the chance of relaying information to a phony lender and potential identity thief. And even the card is actually available and functioning, you need to be exceedingly cautious about hidden fees and unreasonable rates.
Know what to expect from a credit card. If you see an APR of 25% or more, or an annual fee of $30 or more, you should be concerned.
Always, always, always read the fine print. Learn to read Schumer boxes –they are your friend.
Don’t Lose Your Identity!
Perhaps the most terrifying scam of the modern age is identity theft. A stolen identity can have devastating results. Imposters can use your information to make unwarranted purchases, open phony accounts and sign up for services you would never in your right mind contemplate utilizing. Avoiding identity theft is simple.
You must follow one rule: guard your personal information, everywhere!