Scammers are everywhere, and they want your money. You know better than to fall for an email from a prince needing a place to stash millions, but there are so many scams that are less obvious. Here are some of the most common scams directed at college students.
It's important to remember that scammers often want to make you panic, because once panic sets in, you stop thinking clearly. If anyone is trying to scare you into giving them money, perhaps by using the words "IRS" or "Social Security," or perhaps by making you afraid to lose out on a great deal, it's guaranteed to be a scam. Never give anyone your ID, bank account number, Social Security number, or remote access to your computer. Never send Bitcoin or a money order, or buy gift cards for someone demanding money. Don't believe anyone who claims to want to give you money or help you invest. Don't download apps.
If you fall victim to a scam, report it! The only way to stop scammers is to track them. Report to:
If you've ever moved and looked for an apartment, you know that there are plenty of scammers out there who would like to con you out of your money.
Craigslist and apartments.com both have excellent pages on avoiding scams. The short version:
Credit cards also target college students. Always check carefully into any credit card you are considering, and watch out for:
It's better to do your own research and apply for a card from an institution you know something about, than it is to respond to a solicitation. Never give your personal information to anybody you don't trust.
MacKenzie Scott is Jeff Bezos' ex-wife, and she's known for giving away millions of dollars in philanthropy without going through a foundation. She just gives money to whatever organizations she wants to. Unfortunately, scammers have taken advantage of this known habit, and are preying on people in need by promising them money from Scott. Read this New York Times article to learn about the criminal gangs running these sophisticated scams. TL;DR: MacKenzie Scott does not give money to individuals, only to organizations. Anyone who offers you money is a scammer.
You've probably gotten a phone call in the past from somebody who claims to be from Microsoft and wants to fix your computer problem. Or you might happen upon a pop-up that says you have a virus, and to call a certain phone number to get it fixed. These scams mostly target older folks, but scammers are happy to take anyone into their nets. The important thing to remember is to never, ever give anyone remote access to your computer, or your bank information, or anything like that. You can learn a lot about computer scams, and be entertained at the same time, by watching some of the videos at Jim Browning's YouTube channel. Scam-busting is his hobby.
If you have elderly family members, warn them about scam phone calls and computer popups! Many scammers target older people who may be naive or easily frightened.
Want to learn a lot about cons and scams? Try these e-books; just click, log in, and start reading.
Romantic scams have gotten huge in the last couple of years, and are aimed at all ages, even young students. They are often run by large organizations and employ sophisticated psychological techniques and highly accurate demographic information. Elements to watch out for:
Learn more about romantic scams and crypto scams at Global Anti-Scam, which maintains a list of sites NOT to send money to.
There are so many ways for scammers to target you through financial aid or tuition:
Scammers often target college students with offers to make big money by working from home, maybe by stuffing envelopes, putting up online ads, filling out surveys, or some other thing. Here's what to watch out for:
The FTC has a page on work-from-home scams.