Four Common Scams Aimed at Students
As a newly independent young adult attending and paying for college, you’ll experience many new and exciting things. But there’s one thing we hope you’ll never experience: being targeted by con artists looking to take advantage of inexperienced college students who are struggling to support themselves.
International students are especially vulnerable to scholarship scams, as they must juggle starting college with becoming familiar with a new country and culture.
Here are some tips and resources to help students avoid falling for some of the most common scams.
1. Don’t fall victim to telephone or Internet scams: If you are an international student in the U.S., you could be seen as an easy target for scammers.
Remember to never share personal information over the telephone, especially your Social Security or passport number. Government officials will never call and ask for money over the phone, so if this happens to you, make sure you report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
2. Don’t pay to apply for scholarships: When it comes to financial aid, be wary of scholarship programs that require an application fee or sound too good to be true. Legitimate scholarship programs will include selection parameters, which might include a high GPA, participation in clubs and activities or volunteer experience.
Do some research to make sure the sponsor of any scholarship you apply for is legitimate. If you are unsure about the sponsor of a scholarship program, you can contact the Better Business Bureau in the city where the scholarship service is located, or the FTC.
3. Be suspicious of banks that charge large upfront fees in exchange for low interest rate loans: Besides scholarships, other forms of financial aid generally come from the government in the form of grants or loans you receive in your financial aid package after filling out the FAFSA.
If you plan to take out private bank loans, make sure you deal with a trusted bank and understand any fees and interest charges you will incur.
4. Don’t send a deposit for an apartment before visiting in person: If you’re not planning to live in your college’s dorms, it can be a challenge to arrange housing for school – even more so when you live in a different state or country. Many international and out-of-state students will search for apartments online and might be tempted to send a deposit without actually seeing the place firsthand, especially if it seems to be an amazing deal.
If you think you might be caught in a scam, your state department of consumer protection and state attorney general’s office are trusted institutions you can turn to. The National Consumer League’s Fraud Center will also investigate and advocate on your behalf.
If you receive a strange email or phone call, write down the contact information of the organization contacting you and talk to an adviser at your school before you give out any financial or personal information.
Don’t be afraid to report a scam if you think you might have been victimized. You might be able to help other students avoid falling into the same situation.