BBB Cautions Students to be Wary of Scams

Columbus, OH (August 23, 2019) – The fall semester is gearing up for college campuses and for many recent high school grads heading off to college, this is their first taste of freedom away from home.

Unfortunately, this makes them perfect targets for scammers, but all college students can be at risk of falling victim to scams.

BBB wants students to be aware of scams that may be targeting them, especially employment scams, student loan scams and tech support scams.

Employment scams can be especially enticing for college students trying to make extra money. According to BBB’s 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, employment scams were the riskiest scam type for individuals 18-25 years old. In these scams, students spot a Help Wanted ad online or receive an email or a text message from an “employer” asking them to apply for a position. They apply and get a quick response from the “hiring manager.” In some versions of this scam, victims report doing a phony interview through Google Hangouts or another video chat service. After they are “hired,” the company may charge them upfront for “training” or may ask them to provide banking information to run a “credit check” or set up a “direct deposit”. They may also be “accidentally” overpaid with a fake check and asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference.

BBB offers these tips to help spot employment scams:

.Some positions are more likely to be scams. Be wary of work-from-home, secret shopper positions, or any job with a generic title such as caregiver, administrative assistant, or customer service rep. If the job posting is for a well-known brand, check the real company’s job page to see if the position is posted there. Look online; if the job comes up in other cities with the exact same post, it’s likely a scam.

.Different procedures should raise your suspicion. Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job, but beware of offers made without an interview. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring. Don’t fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers. And be cautious about sharing personal information and be careful if a company promises you great opportunities or big income as long as you pay for coaching, training, certifications or directories.

.Government agencies post all jobs publically and freely. The U.S. federal government and the U.S. Postal Service never charge for information about jobs or applications for jobs. Be wary of any offer to give you special access or guarantee you a job for a fee – if you are paying for the promise of a job, it’s probably a scam.

.Get all details and contracts in writing. A legitimate recruiter will provide you with a contract for their services with cost, what you get, who pays (you or the employer), and what happens if you do not find a job.
Paying off student loans are top of mind for most college students. This scam often starts as a phone call, email or letter to the student, claiming their company can alleviate all student loan debt for a fee. The scammer also claims to have helped other student loan holders. However, student loans can only be forgiven under very specific circumstances, which are neither fast nor easy. Instead of helping, the scammers take the fee and disappear.

BBB offers these tips to help avoid student loan scams:

.Start with Trust. Visit bbb.org to read business profiles and check out companies before working with them.

.Do your research and ask questions. Check to see how long the company or lender has been in business and ask questions. Does the lender appear to be well-established? Are you feeling high pressure?

.Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Scammers often pretend to be affiliated with the government. Never pay a fee upfront for help and never share sensitive information, such as your FSA ID.

.The FTC has updated its consumer education related to student loan debt relief scams at ftc.gov/StudentLoans.

.Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost, and do not require a third party.

Tech support scams are getting more and more common, especially with college students doing the majority of their work on a laptop or tablet. This scam often starts with a telephone call or pop-up on the computer screen that appears to be from a well-known company (like Apple, Dell or Microsoft). Often the scammer will create a sense of urgency – the computer is sending error messages, they’ve detected a virus, or the computer is about to crash and all data will be lost. The scammer states that only a tech support employee can fix the problem and asks for access to the device. Once access is granted, the caller will often run a “scan” and claim the computer is infected with viruses. The scammer then offers to fix the problem…for a fee. But that’s not all, the scammer can also install malware on the device and/or steal personal information.

Tips to stay safe from tech support scams:

.Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you know it is the representative of a computer support team you contacted.

.Legitimate tech support companies don’t call out of the blue. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls. The callers often claim to be from a tech company, but remember that scammers can spoof official looking phone numbers, so don’t trust your Caller ID.

.Look out for warning screens: Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim’s computer screen. This pop up will have a phone number to call for help. Instead of calling, shutdown your computer and restart it.

.Be wary of sponsored links. When you search online for tech support, look out for sponsored ads at the top of the results list. Many of these links lead to businesses that scam consumers.

.Don’t click on the links in unfamiliar emails. Scammers also use email to reach victims. These messages point consumers to scam websites that launch pop-ups with the fake warnings and phone numbers.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

Check bbb.org for more information on how to avoid scams.