Now that I am in college, I noticed I am the target of every scam. Why are they targeting me?
College students are a little too trusting and somewhat naive. This makes them vulnerable and prime targets for scammers. Students are eager to share more information than they really should in order to protect themselves from scams. Unfortunately, students ask your question after they are scammed. It pays to be aware of the risks we discuss below.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the 20-29 age group are the most frequent victims of scams, accounting for 11% of all complaints in 2015. Scams targeting universities are quite common and can be easily recognized if you know what to expect.
The Federal Student Tax scam is the latest one on campus. Fraudsters posing as IRS agents will contact students notifying them that they need to pay a bogus tax. Usually armed with some personal information on the intended victim, imposters use this to appear more legitimate. Spoofed caller ID information can make the calls appear to be coming from government agencies. The caller may ask for an immediate wire transfer on threat of police arrest, of course our government would never do this. This tax does not exist and the IRS has issued warnings to parents and students to be vigilant.
Fake credit cards are an easy way to dupe students. You may find yourself inundated with pre-approved credit card invitations, all you need to do is complete the application form. Giving your social security number, name, date of birth and driver’s license number on the fake form, opens you up to identity theft. Many offers are also fake, and their intention is to send you to a spurious website where you enter your personal information online instead. Check if credit cards are real and always use official, secure company websites, those with an https domain. If a dubious charge appears on your statement, you can initiate chargeback procedures to recover funds, by calling your credit card company.
Similar to the fake tax is the tuition scam. This is where a bogus person calls or emails you claiming to be from your college’s administration department. They will say that your tuition fee is late and you will be dropped from classes if payment is not made. It is a scam and should be reported to the real admin department.
With students rarely tethered to ethernet cables, the use of mobile devices increases your vulnerability. College wifi systems are unsecured and dorm routers can easily be hacked. You felt secure at home, but colleges are being targeted by hackers, with thousands of students all using the same open network. Try to avoid sending any personally identifying information on wifi systems or public computers.
Beware of rental scams where you can be duped into paying a deposit for an apartment that does not exist. Scammers will advertise a great rental at an unmissable price and get you to act quickly by paying a deposit. Never part with money until you have physically been to the place and seen the contract.
Finally, there is ‘friendly fraud’ which will get you when your guard is down. Someone in your dorm or class that you know will be responsible for stealing your personal information. Be mindful of what you leave in your room and always keep laptops and smartphones locked down. Identity theft is on the rise and students are often prime targets.
I don’t need to worry about identity theft because no one wants to be me… Jay London.
Written by Jacob Maslow, founder and editor of Legal Scoops.