Sending your children off to college is often a bittersweet moment. You’ve protected them their entire life. You’ve helped them prepare to leave home and face the challenges of college. You still see them as children in many ways. Naïve, but brave at the same time. Smart, but not yet wise. Ready to take on the great big world.
But that great big world has a sinister side they may not be prepared for. Scammers are ready to pounce upon these unsuspecting college victims in a host of ways.
If you have a college student getting ready to go off to school, now’s a good time to talk to them about protecting themselves from fraud while they’re away from home.
Students may think they are invincible, but according to Javelin Strategy and Research, identity theft committed against people ages 18 to 24 took the longest to detect when compared to other age groups, at 132 days on average. The average cost of loss for this age group was $1,156 - nearly 5 times more than the amount lost by other age groups.
And that’s just for identity theft alone! Below are several ways con artists will try to take advantage of your children, along with advice on how to prevent becoming a victim.
• Identity Theft. We mentioned earlier that identity theft was highest among college student age groups. Tell your student to follow one rule: Zealously guard your personal information without exception! In this day of Internet and social media, it is easy for students to open themselves up to con artists. Make online purchases only from trusted sites. Never, ever give out your Social Security number. Carefully guard your credit card numbers and pin numbers.
• Scholarship/Grants. Your student knows that college can be expensive and often search for grants and scholarships. There are fraudulent scholarship-finding services that will “guarantee” success. The services sell lists of potential scholarships and grants to students. But most all financial aid is issued through the government. Students should go to grants.gov to research genuine opportunities.
• Credit Cards. As adults, we know the value of good credit. But many unscrupulous credit card companies prey on poor college students that are new to the game. Be suspicious of cards from banks and organizations you’ve not heard of before. If you see an APR of 25 percent or more or annual fees above $30, avoid that card. Always pay off your credit card bill every month.
• Roommate/Rentals. Dorm life isn’t always attractive to students, and eventually your thoughts will turn to finding a roommate or rental off-campus. Beware of Craigslist. It is fraught with fake roommates and rental scams. Scammers often say they are out of town and need the rent upfront in the form of a money order or wire transfer such as Western Union. Once you send a money order or make a wire transfer, the money is lost forever.
• Job Opportunities. Beware of ads or posters that pop up around campus for jobs with “no experience necessary.” Scammers often will try to get you to sign a contract to pay for training, food, travel, lodging and any other item that could be associated with the job. If you have to pay for a job or the interview will be in a hotel lobby, you can be assured it is a scam!
By sharing these tips with your college student, you can give them some of the wisdom that comes with age. A little bit of basic knowledge and awareness will go a long way toward shielding your student from scammers’ trickery.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.