8 College Scams You Should Know

  • By David Lukic
  • Published: Oct 19, 2020
  • Last Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Scam artists prey on vulnerable individuals like students, seniors, and others who are more likely to fall for their false promises and flashy advertisements. Some of the most despicable are scams that target young college students. Read on to find out about the most common college scams and how you and your students can avoid a college scam.

What is a College Scam?

Young people away at college are sometimes naive about the ways of the world and how scammers target them to try to steal their information for identity theft or take their money. Going away to college is an exciting time, but can also be stressful. Students may be for the first time managing their own lives and finances and are more susceptible than ever to clever fraudsters just lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce.

Below are some of the most common college scams targeting college students.

college scam

College Scams to Look Out For:

Fake Credit Cards Scam for College Students

College students are budding young adults just starting out, and most have never had a credit card before. This makes them ripe for fraudsters to try to “sell” them the perfect credit card to build a credit report with. Some of these flyers and ads for student credit cards are just a vehicle for the criminal to steal your identity by asking for your personal details, including your social security number. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 prevents banks from heavily marketing on college campuses. However, they still do target young adults, and with those offers come high-interest rates and steep fees. 

Be very careful when filling out applications for any type of credit card. It is a good idea for a parent or other trusted adult to put students on their credit card accounts first to let them build some credit until they graduate. 

Late Tuition University Scam

Your college student gets a call, and the person claims to be from the college saying their tuition money hasn’t been paid or is late, and if they don’t pay with a credit card right now, they will be expelled or flunk out. This is another common scam designed to separate students from their money. Scammers often “spoof” phone numbers to make these calls look legitimate. 

If this happens, hang up the phone and call your college financial office. Inquire to see if there truly is something wrong with your account. In most cases, you will find it was simply a credit card scam

Scholarships & Grant Money College Scam

Some students pay for college through scholarships and grants. Criminals know this and use that information to try to persuade you to use their products and services, to reduce your interest rates on loans or even offer scholarships and grants that don’t even exist. If you are asked to pay fees upfront, it is most likely a scam, and you should walk away quickly or hang up the phone. 

Before applying for or accepting an offer from a grant or scholarship organization, research them thoroughly online. Call your college tuition office, and they may be able to inform you of the safe ones and the ones that are truly a scam. 

college fraud

Great Apartments Near Campus

Apartment scams are not limited to college students, but they are prominent targets for this type of college fraud. Fantastic sounding apartments, close to campus with all the right amenities, sounds too good to be true, right? It probably is, especially if the rent is really low. You may contact the landlord, pay a deposit in cash or credit card, and then find out the place doesn’t exist, or the actual owner isn’t even renting. A lot of these scams show up on Craigslist, so be careful. Even if you see pictures, that doesn’t mean it’s real.

Before putting down any money or signing a lease, see the apartment in person. Talk to the owner and look them up online through a public records portal to be sure you are dealing with the real owner. Have a trusted adult review the lease before signing anything. Never pay in cash or prepaid cards. Use a check which can be canceled and traced

Advance-Fee College Scams

Advance-fee scams can range from things like hearing you won a prize, winning a foreign lottery, or even cheap products and services like textbooks. The catch is you have to pay a fee upfront; then, you will receive whatever they promised. The problem is it’s all a lie, you have been scammed. 

Educate your college-age child on these types of scams and instruct them to never pay for anything until they have the goods in hand. If something sounds too good to be true, it is. Walk away. 

university scam

Job Scams

The #1 scam involving 18-25-year-olds are employment scams. College kids keep odd hours and are often desperate for some extra cash. Job board ads promise easy hours, and lots of money for doing very little. Vulnerable students might jump at the chance to land one of these scam jobs. Fraudsters use lofty promises to lure young people in, and once they have their information, your data gets breached.

Never give out your personal details, especially your social security number online, or to anyone promising a job until you have met with them in person and reviewed the company. You can pretty easily research these things online to check for a scam before you lose it all. 

Behavioral Blackmail University Scam

College is a fun time, but kids do get crazy from time to time and do things they normally wouldn’t. Everyone has a cell phone and camera on 24/7 now, so their behavior may be photographed or videotaped and then used against them in blackmail scams. Some of these scams are perpetrated by other students or campus personnel.

Always think twice before doing something, especially if you wouldn’t want your friends, family, and other students to see you doing it. Act as though you are on camera all the time, and you will be okay. If you consume alcohol, do so with caution. Drugs and alcohol can impair your ability to make good decisions. 

Internet and Technology College Scam

Some of the most common scams affecting young people, including college students, are technology and internet scams. 

Watch out for phishing emails. These are emails that look important and legitimate that inform you of a problem or demand you take an action (click a link or download something). Never click links in email or download attachments. Call your bank or the company who emailed to check to see if there is a real problem.

Passwords never reuse passwords or give out your password to anyone. Once they have it, they have the keys to your life, and you could lose a lot.

Be very careful about connecting your computer or mobile device to unsecured Wi-Fi networks at coffee shops or other places on campus. Install strong antivirus software and run deep scans often. Consider using a VPN to mask your online activities and keep your bank and credit card logins safe. Turn on the encryption of your entire device and use fingerprint or Face ID to secure your phone if you lose it.

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