During this time of the year, college students are preparing for the upcoming semester and purchasing required items such as textbooks, laptops, meal plans and budgeting for other living expenses. The National Retail Federation expects total spending for back-to-college goods to reach a record $74 billion in 2022, with an average of almost $1,200 per household. Households with college-aged and K-12 children may spend upwards of $2,000 on back-to-school items this year. To help offset the cost of attending college and for their own spending, many young adults seek employment near their college which can have disastrous results if the employer turns out to be fraudulent. In addition to this risk, increased inflation has led to more consumers comparatively shopping online for their back-to-school items, providing an opportunity for scammers to advertise high-demand products at low prices that are never delivered.
According to BBB’s 2021 Scam Tracker Risk Report, adults ages 18-24 reported a median loss of $170 to scams and students were found to be more vulnerable when exposed to a scam, with slightly over half (51.5%) of students reporting monetary loss as compared to non-students (42%). Employment scams were identified as the second riskiest scam impacting Scam Tracker victims between 18-24 years old, many of which emphasize flexible hours or remote working opportunities. College and university students in Texas have reported nearly $100,000 lost to scams this year, with the top three most-reported scams being online purchasing, employment, and phishing. Across North America in 2021, 21.2% of all BBB Scam Tracker reports from 18-24-year-olds were employment scams, and 26% were online purchases.
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 scams before heading into the new semester.
Fake credit cards. Offers to apply for their first credit card tempt 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 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 identifying and avoiding 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 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 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 time researching the company and contacting 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. Online purchases continue to enact a heavy toll on American consumers across all age ranges. Recently, pet scams have become one of the most costly online purchases consumers make, with many losing thousands of dollars between purchasing the pet and arranging for its transportation. In all cases when purchasing from an online retailer, BBB recommends using a credit card whenever possible due to the additional protection they offer to remove charges for services or goods that are never rendered or received.
Employment scams. Work-from-home positions and flexible hours appeal greatly to college-aged job seekers, allowing them to work around their course schedule easily. However, the sensitive personal information provided to employers may place a student at a higher risk of experiencing identity theft if the employer turns out to be fraudulent. Others find themselves out of money after depositing a fake check or are not provided payment after working for the company for weeks. Spend the time to verify the job posting is legitimate and be wary of positions that are more likely to be scams, such as package reshipment, secret shopper or car wrap advertising. Learn more about the increasing rates of employment scams in Texas by visiting BBB.org.
For more information about how to avoid identity theft on campus, visit BBB.org.
If you have been a scam victim, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.
ABOUT BBB: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB serving the Heart of Texas, which was founded in 1950 and serves 105 counties across Texas.