From registering for classes to finding housing, going back to school for the semester can feel like an endless to-do list. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with forms, payments, and schedules. And that’s what fraudsters and con artists are counting on to work their scams. But what they’re not counting on is you seeing right through their antics. UHCU is here to help by spreading awareness of the types of scams criminals are peddling during the back-to-school season.
Financial aid and student loans
If having all your student loans forgiven or consolidated to pay less than you owe sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Those are the kind of promises financial aid and student loan scammers will make, and these scams are very widespread on social media, via phone, over email, and some even have fake websites. Red flags for these scams are asking for fees upfront, requesting payment immediately, and angling for your social security number (SSN) and federal student aid identification.
Just imagine what you could do with a little extra scholarship money, especially if all you had to do was pay a small fee and someone secured it for you. While that sounds great, it’s the calling card for a scholarship scam. There are many legitimate businesses that help students find and secure scholarships, but you’ll know you’re being conned when you’re asked to fork over fees in advance.
Housing and roommates
Possibly the most inventive scams in the back-to-school category, there is a full catalog of housing cons. Recently, the “rental check” scam has been in circulation, and it involves the fraudster (posing as a new roommate) sending a check for rent and deposit that’s over the amount needed. The check is bad, but before that’s known, the fraudster asks for the extra money to be repaid—leaving the victim short their cash and a roommate.
Student tax scams
Tax scams work hard to surprise and scare their victims into acting hastily and providing payment and personal information. Victims receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The phony IRS agent warns of an overdue Federal Student Tax that, if left unpaid, will lead to arrest and prosecution. Sometimes these callers will demand the tax debt be paid in 30 minutes to prevent arrest. To avoid any knee-jerk reaction to get yourself out of this tax jam, remember that the IRS always contacts people via mail first and gives you the chance to contest the tax penalty.
Fraudsters prey upon your fear or desires in the hopes that you’ll act rashly. To beat them at their own game, UHCU suggests taking a cooling off period to weigh any decisions related to things like financial aid, housing, roommates, or scholarships. No matter how pushy or convincing someone is, remember that you’re in control of your decisions. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and hang up or send that email to spam.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a back-to-school scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.