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Common Scams that Prey on College Students

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College students may be vulnerable to online scams and predatory behavior. Many students may be living on their own and managing their money for the first time. They may not be familiar with the warning signs of fraud, which can lead to all kinds of unfortunate outcomes, including identity theft and scam purchases. If you or someone you know is getting ready to go to college, use this guide to help protect yourself from common scams that target college students.

male college student raising his hand during a lecture.

Financial Aid Scams

The cost of tuition has skyrocketed over the last few decades with no signs of slowing down. Most students will graduate with some debt, so it’s common for scammers to send them messages regarding financial aid or student loan forgiveness. Some scammers may use a fake check scam as well. The student or parent usually receives a message about financial aid. They will enter their personal information to see if they qualify for aid, which a hacker could leverage to gain access to their bank account.

Credit Card Scams

College students need money for just about everything. Many students use credit cards to pay for books, furniture, and other college necessities. A lot of students have little to no credit, which makes it hard to qualify for a low-interest credit card. Scammers will send them promotional materials about student credit cards with low interest, which is usually a sign that the offer isn’t real. The student responds by sending them their financial information, which can lead to identity theft.

Unpaid Tuition

Parents and students may also get a message saying they owe tuition even though they’ve already paid in full. The recipient may be afraid of getting kicked out of school, so they respond with their loan or financial information only to discover that the entire message was a scam. The hacker can then gain access to their financial information.

Fake Job Offers

College students are typically hungry for jobs, including internships, part-time gigs, and work on campus. Students don’t typically have a lot of job experience, so they may be eager for any opportunity that comes their way. Scammers will send them fake job ads and offers, asking them to send their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

Textbook Scams

Every student needs textbooks, but going to the college bookstore can be cost-prohibitive for some individuals, especially if they’re on a tight budget. Lots of students will try to buy used books online by contacting private sellers. Scammers will usually post ads for used textbooks online. They may ask the student to pay for the books by sending their credit card information, a check or money wire. Another common tactic is to ask the student to purchase and transfer gift cards. The student never receives the books, and the scammer makes off with their bank account information or their money.

Room and Board Scams

Moving somewhere new is one of the best parts of going to college. Lots of students will be looking for rooms on or off campus. Scammers may advertise that they’re looking for a roommate or have a room for rent. Students will then respond by sending the scammer their personal information, including their phone number, email address, or student ID. The scammer uses this information to steal the person’s identity.

Public Wi-Fi Scams

Finding a good signal on campus isn’t always easy, which means some students may fall prey to Wi-Fi scams. They may see an ad or pop-up about a new internet network. The system will ask them to enter their personal information, including student ID or credit card information. Instead of getting online, the student discovers they are a victim of a scam.

In most cases, if the offer or ad seems too good to be true, it usually is. Students should always validate the identity of the person sending the message, whether it’s another student, the school itself or their student loan lender. Students should contact the bank or school directly to make sure the message is real.

If you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, avoid looking at personal banking or sensitive information as traffic can be looked at by other parties. It is recommended to use a VPN while on public Wi-Fi to protect your privacy and data.

Remember that it is highly unlikely that a legitimate business will ask for money in the form of gift cards, cryptocurrency or other “cash equivalent.” Ent will never ask you to send or share your personal information over the phone, text or email. Please contact us directly if you have any information about your account or student loan.

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