Why and How College Students are Scammed

Why and How College Students are Scammed


College students are ideal victims for identity theft, with clean or still non-existent credit histories ripe for exploitation…and often clueless to their risks and value to scammers.

They are more likely to boast birth dates and other personal nuggets on social media that can be pieced together by Facebook-trawling identity thieves. Use public Wi-Fi for risky online shopping, banking, and to access email. Open links that hide computer malware touting free music and games, information-requiring surveys and prizes, or intriguing text messages and emails.

If they have credit, it’s usually free of problems being jointly held or otherwise supervised by a parent; if they don’t, even better for scammers to use their identities to open fraudulent accounts for credit cards, loans and utility service. In between classes and keggers, few college students check their credit reports, explaining why those 18 to 24 take five times longer than other age groups to detect identity theft that’s already occurred – and that discovery is often made when they apply for car loans, mortgages and post-degree jobs.

How are college students scammed? The top ruses targeting your children and grandchildren include:

Fake employment. In the latest, fast-growing scheme, scammers place advertisements for phony job opportunities (often administrative work) on college employment websites, and/or recruit students via hacked school email accounts, warns the FBI. Gleaning Social Security numbers, bank account details and other sensitive information, “hired” students (often interviewed in nearby hotel lobbies or other non-workplace locations) are paid with counterfeit checks, instructed to deposit them and wire-transfer a portion to a provided vendor under the guise of job-necessary software or other equipment. Students lose the money wired, any funds drawn from the bogus deposit, and their bank account could be frozen. Plus their SSN and other valuable info is in enemy hands.

Pay now imposters. Using caller ID spoofing to make calls appear to be from the IRS or school financial aid office, scammers phone those with student loans threatening dire consequences – including arrest or non-graduation – unless they immediately pay a non-existent “federal student tax” or other bogus fees. Again, scammers make a quick buck and glean personal details for possible identity theft.

Scholarship and grant scams. These services claim to have lists of “secret” or “guaranteed” awards for current and future college students, or will provide no-fail help with paperwork. They demand upfront fees and then don’t deliver. The better route: Get reputable scholarship info for free at websites like FinAid and FastWeb, or directly from individual colleges.

 

False freebies. From must-have gizmos touted in surveys and bogus social media giveaways to free-trial offers of acne creams, gym memberships and you-name-it, expect attached strings, such as having to provide ID-worthy personal details, credit cards and hard-to-cancel memberships.

 

Credit card cons. Offers are all over campus and the internet, but beware. Plastic pitched heavily to college students often have sky-high interest rates and/or annual fees. Others are from identity thieves who merely pose as credit card companies. When shopping for credit and prepaid debit cards, stick with recognized and reputable names; run from anything with an APR near or above 25 percent or an annual fee of $30 or more.

 

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and keep tabs of scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.

Photo: Martin Dimitrov/ iStock

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See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.



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FTC: Impostor Scams Surpass ID Theft (but Debt Collection Remains Top Complaint)

FTC: Impostor Scams Surpass ID Theft (but Debt Collection Remains Top Complaint)


More Americans last year complained about scammers playing an identity – most often, that of an IRS or other government official – than stealing theirs.

In its 2016 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book released last week, the Federal Trade Commission says imposter scams surpassed identity theft for the first time, becoming the second most common category of consumer complaints.

Debt collection remained the top consumer gripe, generating 859,090 (28 percent) of all complaints – more than the combined 406,578 reports about imposter scams and 399,225 for identity theft. In 2015, debt collection first overtook identity theft, which previously held the dubious top spot for 15 consecutive years. The FTC says the high number of reported debt collection complaints was due, in part, to reports made to a mobile app by one of the agency’s data collection partners.

At 3,050,374, overall complaints fell 3 percent from the record 3,140,803 set a year earlier. As with 2015, Florida remained the state with the highest per-capita rate of reported fraud and other types of complaints, followed by Georgia and Michigan. Per-capita rates for identity theft reports were highest in Michigan, Florida and Delaware.

Other highlights of the latest 102-page Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, which includes complaints made directly to the FTC, various state and federal law enforcement agencies and other groups, and is used to help track and combat the leading scam trends:

  • Identity theft complaints slightly declined, from 16 percent in 2015 to 13 percent – with 29 percent of 2016 consumers reporting that their data was used to commit tax fraud. There was a jump in citizens who reported that their stolen data was used for credit card fraud; from 16 percent in 2015 to more than 32 percent in 2016.
  • Age-wise, AARP-aged Americans filed the most fraud complaints. Those in their 60s led all age groups with 20 percent of complaints, followed by 50-somethings at 18 percent and those 70 and older at 17 percent.
  • For identity theft, 20 percent of complaints were made by those in their 50s, 14 percent in their 60s and 6 percent in their 70s. (Those in their 30s and 40s filed 21 and 20 percent, respectively.)
  • A total of 662,209 consumers – 51 percent of those filing complaints – reported losing $744.5 million through fraud in 2016, an average $1,124 each. That’s an improvement over 2015, when 53 percent of complainants lost a combined $774 million and $1,154 average. In 2014, the gotcha rate was 55 percent, with $1.7 billion lost and per-victim average of $1,979.
  • The telephone remains the most used tool to initiate scams. Among consumers reporting their initial contact method by fraudsters, 77 percent say it was by phone; that’s up from 54 percent two years earlier. Email, websites, snail mail and “other” each tallied only single digits, consistent with previous years.
  • Wire transfers remain the most popular method at 58 percent, following by credit cards, debits from bank accounts, and prepaid cards.

The top 10 complaint categories:

  1. Debt Collection – 859,090 complaints (28%)
  2. Imposter Scams — 406,578 (13%)
  3. Identity Theft — 399,225 (13%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services – 292,155 (10%)
  5. Banks and Lenders – 143,987 (5%)
  6. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries – 141,643 (5%)
  7. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales – 109,831 (4%)
  8. Auto-Related Complaints – 94,673 (3%)
  9. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users – 49,679 (2%)
  10. Television and Electronic Media – 49,546 (2%)

 

For information about other scams, sign up for the Fraud Watch Network. You’ll receive free email alerts with tips and resources to help you spot and avoid identity theft and fraud, and keep tabs of scams and law enforcement alerts in your area at our Scam-Tracking Map.

Photo: RomoloTavani/iStock

Also of Interest


See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.



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