Better Business Bureau
Students sometimes feel invulnerable, but they’re more susceptible to scams than they think. According to new research by Better Business Bureau (BBB), 80% of millennials think those over 65 are more likely to be scam victims. In reality, young people are three times more likely than seniors to report losing money to a scam.
As of August 2016, students have reported more than 1,500 scams to BBB Scam Tracker (bbb.org/scamtracker). Every dollar lost to a scammer could go to tuition, textbooks or housing, so it’s especially important for students to be aware of the risks. BBB advises that students familiarize themselves with the following three common scams to avoid becoming a victim:
Employment scams are the most reported scams to BBB Scam Tracker by students, accounting for 15% of reports. The hunt for a job is daunting, so it’s easy for students to get excited when they receive an unsolicited email or job offer touting “no experience necessary”, “work from home”, and a great salary. However, these jobs are almost always too good to be true. Consider it a red flag if you have to pay for any supplies or upfront costs, will be receiving checks or packages or wiring any money, the job asks for personal banking information, it’s an on-the-spot job offer, you’re interviewed in a hotel lobby or it offers “immediate start”. If a job seems suspicious at all, be smart and search for it online. Look up all potential employers on bbb.org to determine their trustworthiness.
Online purchase scams are the second-most reported scam to BBB Scam Tracker by students. Shockingly, as of August 2016, students have reported losing more than $56,000 to this scam. This mistake happens when you see a much-wanted item online for a too-good-to-be-true price. Consumers frequently report ordering items from websites, paying for them, and never receiving them. Make sure to only shop on websites you trust. Look for “https” in the URL and other trust marks, and research all businesses at bbb.org before making a purchase. Trial offers, although not technically scams, can also trick students. Often, when signing up for a “trial offer”, hidden in the fine print you’re also signing up for an expensive subscription service which may be difficult to cancel. Make sure to read the fine print, especially if you’re providing financial information, and look up the business at bbb.org before ordering to see if past customers have complaints about difficulties cancelling their trial or being overcharged.
Rental and roommate scams usually appear on online classified websites, and dozens of students have reported this scam to BBB Scam Tracker as of August 2016. One variation of the rental scam is the roommate scam: if you post an ad for a roommate on Craigslist, beware of “fake roommates” who are out of the country, but can provide the rent upfront in the form of a money order. When you receive it, the amount is higher than the amount requested; you’re asked to cash it and wire back the rest. Unfortunately, the original check will bounce and you’ll be out of the money you transferred – and a roommate! Meet with roommates in person first and never wire money to a stranger. Another form of a housing scam can occur when students search for housing. Beware of fake rental properties posted online and always visit a potential rental before making any deposits.