I may be biased here, but I can’t be the only one who thinks a couple hours of “How To Recognize a Scam” training every year would be of great benefit to high school students. Of course, such an undertaking is easier proposed than implemented, but it seems like an important life skill that needs to be touched on at some point.
There are a variety of scams that prey upon current and incoming college students. Here is a brief rundown of a few common ones.
Federal Student Tax Scam
This scam begins with a phone call that may use caller ID spoofing to look like it came from the IRS. The caller will inform the recipient that they haven’t paid their “Federal Student Tax” and will face dire consequences if the tax is not paid immediately. The caller will demand payment via wire transfer or prepaid cards (iTunes, Green Dot, etc.).
Of course, there is no such thing as a “Federal Student Tax,” and the IRS doesn’t call you on the phone about unpaid taxes anyway. Plus, even if you do owe back taxes, it’s impossible to pay them via wire transfer or prepaid cards.
Unpaid Tuition Scam
Another telephone-based scam, this one appears to come from the college admissions office and claims that tuition has not been paid and the student will be un-enrolled if payment is not made immediately via credit card, wire transfer, or other unusual method. A variation of this scam impersonates an FBI agent and claims that the student will be arrested if the bill isn’t paid right away.
If you really have not paid your tuition, they’re not going to call you on the phone and insist that you pay immediately, especially with a credit card or wire transfer (and especially especially with an iTunes card). Your college probably doesn’t take credit card payments over the phone. You should also never reveal personal information to someone who contacted out of the blue; if you’re truly convinced the call might be legitimate, hang up and contact the admissions office directly. Also, the FBI doesn’t get involved in matters of late college tuition payments.
Advance Fee Scams
College students are often bombarded with alleged opportunities for student loans, scholarships, financial aid and jobs. Some of these are perfectly legitimate, but many are not. There are a lot of individuals and companies charging fees for things you can do on your own for free, such as filing FAFSA paperwork or filling out job applications. Some won’t even provide the service claimed, they just want your banking information to set up a recurring charge.
Never trust an offer of “just give us the money and we’ll do the rest,” and remember that legitimate scholarships are never “guaranteed” (and they usually have requirements beyond you having a pulse).