Protect yourself from back to school scams

Protect yourself from back to school scams
Back to school scams.

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A new scam alert for students and parents, as the new school year gets underway. Officials say quick money programs are targeting college students.

“Scam artists are becoming technologically savvy, they’re operating like legitimate businesses, they’re creating fake websites, they’re spoofing well national brands,” said Bryan Oglesby, Director of Public Relations and Outreach, Better Business Bureau of West Florida.

Since the start of 2019 to date, the BBB counted 14 school scams in Florida. Luckily, none on the Suncoast. Of those reported scams, six were employment scams. The question is how do they work?

“These scammers would spoof college email address or something very similar to lead them to believe it will give them a job opportunity set up while they’re at college,” he said.

And what’s suspicious…

“They send their first check to get the job started and accidentally send too much money what they agreed upon. They’ll ask the college student to deposit that check and then mail their own check with the difference back to them,” he said.

According to the BBB, as students send their checks with their real money to the scammer, the fake check they initially received will bounce, leaving them out of money.

To avoid that, they say do your research first.

“Whether we’re young, old, Millennial, we need to stop for a minute, think about the information that’s being presented to us. Don’t just click on a link because it looks good, go to a different source, go to the better business bureau, do that homework,” said Oglesby.

Other type of scams the BBB warns about:

  1. Roommate/Rental scheme - 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 (overpayment scam). You are asked to cash it, and wire back the rest. This is a scam!
  2. Credit Cards - Credit card offers are all over campus. While it is important to build credit, it is more important to maintain good credit. Many of these cards have annual fees or charge high interest rates on purchases. Shop around for the best rate and pay off your credit card bills every month.
  3. Scholarship/Grants - Scholarship-finding services “guarantee” grants or scholarships. They sell lists to students on potential scholarship or grant opportunities. However, nearly all available financial aid comes from the federal government or from individual colleges. Go to grants.gov for more information.
  4. Safeguard your ID - 70% of people are clueless on protecting identity. Keep your personal information, including your driver’s license, student ID, debit cards, credit cards, and bank information in a SAFE place. Be wary of any online solicitations, emails, social media sites, or phone calls asking for your personal information. NEVER give out personal information to someone you don’t know.
  5. Locksmith Scams - College students are prone to locking themselves out of their homes or cars. If this happens to you, you probably will use your cell phone or local yellow pages to find a nearby locksmith. Problem is, some disreputable locksmiths will post bogus addresses in their ads to make them appear local, when they’re not. Check out the company first, and make sure you are not over-charged for services. (BBB recommends researching first and keeping the local, reputable locksmith’s contact information in your purse or wallet).
  6. Online Shopping Deals - You see a much-wanted item for a steep discount online. The catch? The site asks you to wire payment to them instead of using a credit card - a huge red flag. Once the money is sent, the item is never received. Also make sure you have the company’s address, and double check it to make sure the address exists (and isn’t a rented drop box).
  7. Trial Offers - From fitness club memberships to magazine subscriptions to acne medicine, diet pills, or free DVDs and CDs, know how much these products and services are going to cost you once the “Free Trial Offer” expires.
  8. Illegal Downloads - It may be tempting to save money by downloading free music, movies, or textbooks, but many contain spyware that can end up causing financial havoc.

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