During this time of the year, college students prepare for the upcoming semester and budget for school supplies, tuition, transportation, and living expenses. According to the National Retail Federation, households with a college student can expect to spend an average of $1,200 on back-to-school shopping for the 2021 school year.
According to BBB’s 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report, adults ages 18-24 reported the highest median losses ($150) to scams, many of which take place online. College and university students in Texas have reported over $109,000 lost to scams this year, with the top three most-reported scams being online purchasing scams, employment scams and phishing scams.
In March 2021, a student in Bryan reported a “package shipping” employment scam that initially seemed legitimate. Several supposed employees for the company contacted him from various departments, emails and phone numbers, and he worked for the company for two weeks. The only shipment the student received was 1-ounce of gold that he sent to an address provided to him via the company’s dashboard. Once payday came around, the student could not log in to the company’s dashboard, and all attempts to contact the company via phone and email have gone unanswered.
“Victims of employment scams lose more than just their time and money,” said Heather Massey, vice president of communications for Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas. “The sensitive personal information that employers request of potential employees creates a much higher chance of becoming a victim of identity theft if the employer turns out to be fraudulent. It is important always to exercise caution when interacting with potential employers and remain skeptical of high-paying, flexible work positions that seem too good to be true.”
Whether you are a student starting school away from home or have young students who may be vulnerable to such scams, BBB recommends watching out for these financial scams before heading into the new semester.
Fake credit cards. Offers to apply for their first credit card are tempting to many students as they navigate the financial obligations of attending a higher education institution. However, unchecked spending on credit cards may create financial difficulties down the road, and some of the offered deals may be designed to access personal information. Spend the time to research the offers from credit card flyers as well as banking institutions before applying. Visit BBB.org for more tips on how to identify and avoid credit card scams.
Fraudulent apartment listings. When searching for apartments, it is difficult not to jump at an opportunity to live in an apartment close to campus, especially if it advertises affordable rent. If the apartment requires a credit card or banking information to “reserve” or “lock-in” the unit, BBB strongly recommends seeing the apartment in person before transferring any money. Much like other scams, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. These tips also apply to online ads for those who are seeking roommates or taking over a lease.
Scholarship and grant scams. Be wary of phone calls from companies that “guarantee” you will receive a scholarship or grant money if you use their services. Spend the time to research the company and contact the school’s financial aid office for advice on financing your education. Scholarship scams can affect college graduates for years after they’ve completed their degree and may increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft. Visit BBB.org for more tips on how to identify and avoid scholarship scams.
Online purchasing scams. According to BBB’s 2020 Scam Tracker Risk Report, online purchasing scams were the #1 most-reported scam impacting 18–25-year-old consumers in the U.S., especially through social media platforms and apps. BBB recommends purchasing items online with a credit card whenever possible due to the additional protections they offer to remove charges for services or goods that are never rendered or received.
For more information about how to avoid identity theft on campus, visit BBB.org. If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico.