Caution and research can beat college scam ID theft, financial, accommodation and job scams: Internet Scambusters #349
College scam tricks and fraud can add money and headaches to
the already rocketing costs and other pressures of being a
Yet by applying the same principles of research and study to
your life as you do to your learning, you can spot and avoid
In this issue, we outline the 5 biggest student scams you’ll
encounter on and off campus, with some tips on how to deal (or
not deal) with them.
As always, we also recommend you check out the most popular
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Let’s check out today’s issue…
5 College Scam Tricks That Will Hurt Your Wallet, Your Education or Your Reputation
College scams come in many forms. A few weeks back, we
outlined some of the trickery you’re likely to encounter with
online and home tutor scams. Check out href="http://www.scambusters.org/tutorscam.html">Tutor Scam Alert for
This week, as students all over the world assemble for the
start of another year’s study, we switch our focus to the
college campus for a close-up look at 5 big time student scams
that will either hurt your wallet, your education or your
reputation — and maybe all three.
In some cases, young people and their parents will already
have encountered some of the student scams outlined here –
phony scholarship schemes for example. Others provide a timely
warning for the start of the academic year.
One thing is for sure, with college costs currently rising at
double the level of inflation, paying for your (or your kids’)
higher education is a painful enough process without getting
snared by some of these schemes.
1. Student identity theft.
This is by far the biggest category of college scams. As heavy
Internet users, sometimes too trusting of others, young people
are particularly vulnerable to identity theft scams.
This happens especially on social networks like Facebook,
where scammers have set up phony pages that look like official
college pages, harvesting names either for ID theft or to be
sold on marketing lead lists.
Student identity theft is such a huge issue that we previously
created a guide on the subject: href="http://www.scambusters.org/identitytheft/collegestudentsguide.html">The
College Student’s Guide to Identity Theft.
2. Scholarship scams.
This is another biggie. There are tens of thousands of
legitimate scholarships on offer out there. So many, in fact,
it’s hard to know where to start.
There are two main scams operating here:
Phony scholarships. These either don’t exist or they are so
small as to be hardly worth applying for. The aim, again, is
to harvest personal details of applicants for ID theft or
Charging a fee for scholarship search matching. This isn’t
illegal but it’s totally unnecessary since scholarship
information is available free online, at sites like
3. Loans and other financial student scams.
These days, you’re lucky if you can get through college
without taking out a loan. But you can end up in a mess if you
go to the wrong people for it.
The main, legit source, which should always be your starting
point is the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.
Note the “Free” in that title. Be aware that other
organizations use “FAFSA” in their names or services, offering
to help you file your claim — for a fee. Again, it’s
perfectly legal for them to do so, but why pay?
And note that, as in the commercial world, there are plenty of
people prepared to lend you money at different rates
(including “payday loan” types of firms), some of which are
There have even been reports of some less reputable colleges
taking kickbacks from lenders for steering students their way.
This is an area where doing your research definitely pays off.
Start with the FAFSA site, talk to your bank or check out
reputable independent research sites like FindTuition.com
Another financial area to do your research and be cautious is
the specialist field of student insurance.
When you’re away from home, you may not be protected on the
insurance policies that cover your parent’s (or main) home.
But you’d be well advised to speak to your existing company or
a local insurance agency before being targeted by someone
supposedly selling costly or bogus student insurance on
4. Student accommodation scams.
Finding a place to live at the right price beyond a college’s
own residences can be a real headache. There are two key
pitfalls to watch out for:
Unsuitable or overpriced accommodation. Rental owners are
supposedly governed by fairly strict controls over the
conditions in which they must maintain their properties. In
practice, unscrupulous landlords get away with murder –
And they can basically charge what they like. So again,
research pays off. Many colleges maintain lists of “approved”
landlords and some even inspect premises before approving
Non-existent rentals. Yes, this scam, which is widely
practiced in the non-student world as well, involves a crook
offering you a house or apartment they don’t own, taking your
money upfront and then disappearing.
Reputation and college accommodation lists are the best guide,
though you can check ownership for free with the local County
authorities. And be sure you never send an electronic money
transfer — especially to someone you haven’t thoroughly
5. Phony student employment.
Beware of jobs that involve door-to-door selling, especially
of magazines or artwork.
These often are covers for scams in which either the product
you’re selling doesn’t exist, or the cause for which it is
supposedly raising money is bogus.
Students who have been lured into this type of scam often also
do not get paid or, if they do, earn a pittance that’s related
to how many products they’ve sold.
Students are also targets for work-at-home scams of the sort
we’ve previously highlighted here.
A particularly common trick is to charge fees for things like
training, accreditation, kits or other materials you
supposedly need for the job. Simply don’t part with your money
on schemes like this.
These are the 5 main college scam tricks you’re likely to come
across during your time at college. But there are others,
like: counterfeit tickets for graduations, student events and
entertainment; bogus or unlicensed colleges; and phony
accreditation. We’ve written about most of these in previous
The key to avoiding them all is to realize that there are
people out there, including maybe some of your fellow
students, just waiting to rip you off.
And since a large part of what lies ahead of you relies on
careful research and detailed study, our advice is to apply
those same principles as much to living your life as you do
your studies — then you can graduate with honors in both!
That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!