A Guide for College Students: Be Aware of These 4 Scams

College is an exciting new chapter of your life where you finally have the freedom to make you own choices. But with this change also comes the responsibility to take care of yourself. Blind excitement and inexperience are reasons that many scammers choose to target students for financial gain. This guide will break down four common college student scams into what they look like, red flags to look out for and tips to keep your personal information safe.

Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams

Receiving a scholarship or financial aid to help pay for college is great. It helps pay for the extensive college bills—something that most everyone wants. But, before you get too excited you should make sure that you aren’t being scammed.

There are several ways these scams can occur:

  • A scammer contacts you to award you a non-existent scholarship
  • A company promises you a scholarship or financial aid package
  • A financial aid service claims they can get you a scholarship in exchange for an advance fee or that they will handle all of your paperwork for a processing fee
  • A fraudulent scholarship website is designed to collect your email address or other details to scam you in the future

Red flags to look out for:

  • A strict guarantee that a company will be able to get you aid
  • An unsolicited scholarship offer
  • Urgent messaging that tries to get you to act fast or you will miss the opportunity
  • Being asked for you credit card or bank account number to hold the scholarship
  • Someone who claims to do all the work and all you have to do is pay a processing fee
  • A scholarship that costs you money to receive

Tip: The only application that determines if you are eligible for financial aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is entirely free for you to complete and submit.

Employment Listing Scams

With this type of scam, you will receive an unsolicited email that is sent to your college email account. The email will include a job description that sounds too good to be true, normally explaining that you will be paid well for very little work. The email will invite you to apply for the job or start the job right away.

Once you apply, the “employer” will send you a check and ask you deposit it. You will be over-payed and instructed to return the excess funds to the employee by wire payment or gift cards. A day or two after depositing the check, your bank will inform you that the check was fake and that you are responsible for the funds you sent back to the “employer.”

Red flags to look out for:

  • Job listings/emails with many typos and grammatical errors
  • A suspicious-looking email address or company website
  • An offer to be hired without even interviewing or being asked to interview in a strange location
  • Communication about being paid before you have even worked
  • Requests for upfront payment or personal information

Tip: Do your research before saying yes to any job. Make sure the company has a professional website and legitimate contact information. It also doesn’t hurt to see what others are saying about their experience at the company.

Unpaid Tuition Claims

In an unpaid tuition scam, you or your parents will be contacted by a scammer claiming that your tuition bill is unpaid. The phone call, email or text message will appear to come from your college admissions office but the message will be urgent and claim that payment needs to happen immediately so that your college enrollment isn’t jeopardized.

Red flags to look out for:

  • The college (admissions office or bursar’s office) contacting you by phone, email or text message
  • Urgency in the message, requiring immediate payment
  • Request of unusual payment method such as credit card, wire transfer or prepaid debit cards

Tip: Before making a payment, contact the college’s financial aid office to verify that you have unpaid tuition. The school would most likely send a bill before calling and making you pay immediately.

Fake Apartment Listings

The scammer will pose as someone selling or renting a property or as a property management business conducting the transaction on behalf of a client who is the alleged owner of the property. You will be asked to pay money in order to see the place or begin renting it. However, once the payment is received, you will realize that there is no property for sale or the listing is occupied.

Red flags to look out for:

  • Requiring a deposit or rent payment over the phone
  • Asking for money before singing the lease or seeing the property
  • They do not want to meet in person
  • Communications with strange language, typos, grammatical errors or odd phone numbers

Tip: Never start renting an apartment without seeing the inside and outside of the place. Rent from websites that other college friends have used or from or from a landlord that is reputable.

With all of these scams, it is important to remember to never give out your personal information unless you are absolutely certain and have verified that the receiver is legitimate. Look out for the red flags discussed above and keep our tips in mind to keep you safe. If you suspect you’ve become a victim of fraud, call Needham Bank at 1-781-444-2100 or your local branch as soon as possible.