7 Common Ways Scammers Target College Students

College is an exciting time in every student's life! This is where they begin their journey into adulthood and start to make decisions that will impact their future. This can encompass renting your first apartment, applying for your first job, or getting your first credit card. These are huge milestones to be proud of and excited for but also cautious as they can provide opportunities for scammers to take advantage of hopeful new students.

College Students Scams

It’s important that students educate themselves on some of the potential warning signs that can be present when a scam is about to take place. Therefore, this article will discuss 7 of the most common ways scammers are targeting college students. 

#1 - Fake Student Loans

College is not an inexpensive investment and it can cost students thousands of dollars to complete their degrees. It’s not uncommon for students to face financial debt and the need for student loans to cover the many fees that college charges. The price of tuition, textbooks, school supplies, and courses are only some of the costs that students will need to pay when studying at college. This fee is even larger for students that choose to study abroad and outside of their hometowns, which typically pushes them to seek financial aid.

Scammers are aware of these costs and will often target indebted students with false promises of lower monthly payments and cheaper loans. The United States alone has reported millions of dollars being stolen from students each year by scammers falsifying information on student loans. They will entice students with offers of paying off debt quicker and lower monthly payments to then redirect the funds received to their own personal bank accounts.

According to Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), scammers often target new and continuing students by sending them fake emails pretending to be from the Student Loans Company (SLC). As a student, the fake email would try to notify you that your account has been suspended due to incomplete information. 

The email typically contains a web link that would lead you to a fake website where the scammer can gain your personal details. That being said, it is important that students conduct thorough research and background checks on any institutions or individuals they might consider using to help pay off the debt. For more info, read these articles from Bankrate and Student Aid.

phishing email example

#2 - Public Wi-Fi Scams

Scammers love public Wi-Fi as much as you do. College students will often spend large amounts of their time outside of class frequenting local cafes, restaurants, and libraries to study and spend time with friends. This can also mean time spent logged into public Wi-Fi networks. 

It is important to be aware that these Wi-Fi networks are not always 100% secure and the security of the network can be at risk to experienced hackers. Hackers will exploit the network's flaws to spy on the data of mobile devices that may be connected to the router. This allows them to steal your personal information if you use that network when logging into any financial institution or other personal accounts.

#3 - Online Income Scam

Many college students opt to work part-time jobs or take on side hustles to help finance the cost of attending school. This can be a great way to earn money and gain some practical experience while attending college.

Although, some scammers are creating fake online jobs presenting students with the opportunity to work from the comfort of their laptops. In return, they may ask for some upfront cash or personal information to begin the onboarding process. They will then disappear with the money or steal the identity of the unlucky student. 

To stay protected make sure to discuss these opportunities with some trusted friends and find out information about the company before providing any personal information or money. Additionally, here is how to save money as a student.

#4 - Fake Scholarships

Scholarships are another great way that students can help pay off college tuition and expenses. Scholarships are often awarded to students that demonstrate exceptional talent in athletics, academics, and many other faculties of life. These scholarships normally require an application process and are given to students through an education fund, governmental organization, and sometimes local businesses or sports programs. 

It is important to be aware that scammers will conduct phishing campaigns and call or email newly graduated students with offers of scholarships and free money. The scammer then attempts to steal personal and financial information from its victims. 

#5 - Textbook Scams

Textbooks are another expensive cost of attending college and It’s likely that students will need to purchase new textbooks every year to complement the courses they are taking. The costs of purchasing new books each year can quickly add up. Therefore, many students will opt to purchase used textbooks from various online sources. This provides another great opportunity for scammers to target unsuspecting college students. 

Think carefully before paying for online PDFs or sending money to Facebook “friends” before having physically seen the textbook. If possible, it’s best to make these exchanges in-person and at a public location where you can verify the legitimacy of the book. 

#6 - Fake Apartment Deposits

College can often require leaving your parents' nest and moving to a new city or country. This can mean finding your first apartment and putting down a cash deposit. A scammer may try to lure students with low monthly costs and excellent deals on brand-new apartment buildings for a sizable upfront payment. They will proceed to take this deposit and then disappear without a trace.

It’s important to visit the apartment you wish to rent in person before paying any deposit or fees. Look to reputable companies for help with moving services, or when holding money in escrow when validating the building before transferring over any funds. 

#7 - Blackmail

Blackmail is one of the most common scams that college students face when attending school. There is an unfortunate trend of these young adults being recorded in private situations and then blackmailed with the footage taken. 

The popularity of cell phones means that almost everyone has an easy-to-access camera in their back pockets. So, be cautious to avoid being recorded in an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation. 

Nonetheless, college is a truly exciting time for young adults beginning down their career paths and it should be enjoyed for all the joy and adventures that it can provide. Don’t let the potential of being scammed stop you from experiencing all the benefits that college has to offer.

If you do believe that you have been a victim of a scam, then make sure to contact your local authority and financial institutions to protect yourself and your hard-earned money!