Leaving high school for college or university isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, most kids look forward to securing admission to higher educational institutions of their choice for the thrill of shaping their long-held dream careers, exploring new social circles and places beyond their current life experiences, and, most importantly, experiencing the freedom of being able to call the shots as adults.
However, quite a handful of students are adequately prepared for roadblocks, especially when they have to navigate grants and scholarships, on-campus or off-campus accommodation, student loans, and credit cards, to mention a few. Those in their final year of study are also faced with the challenges of job hunting and establishing the careers they’ve worked so hard for.
The sad fact is that a lack of preparation from students’ side makes it easier for unscrupulous characters to pounce on the already daunting hurdles students have to face in their pursuit of higher education. Each academic year, many of these individuals fall victim to a host of elaborate scams that threaten to thwart their future, from student loan relief scams to public Wi-Fi scams.
In 2022 alone, 42% reported to have been defrauded, with a further 29% confessing to have come close. Of these victims, 36% were financially drained and 20% were mentally affected as a result. These reports show that no matter how much you may think you can protect yourself from scams, you are more susceptible than you realize. The best way to reduce these numbers is to know how scammers operate and take action against them, which is what this guide discusses.
Con artists are in the business of extorting money from the ignorant, and what better way to do this than by choosing the youngest? It’s not uncommon for teenagers to feel lost after graduating from high school, which is perfectly normal, considering that they are in one of many life transitions.
However, this lack of orientation leaves them in a state where they often trust anyone who comes along with the promise to help ease their college journey. For most of them, the weak link can be any of the following:
Many students are still learning to manage their finances independently and are unfamiliar with financial practices that can help them identify red flags. For example, a student with bad credit or no credit history may believe that they can’t secure student loans through conventional channels.
So, they resort to seeking these from loan sharks with predatory lending rates and unreasonable deadlines. In the process of getting such loans, they reveal much of their personal information, which can come back to haunt them down the line.
For those without deep pockets, college life may be all about juggling multiple jobs, family responsibilities, and schoolwork at the same time. In that case, they are more likely to focus on getting through with their commitments by welcoming any option that can potentially give them a break. Taking advantage of their despair, scammers may use tactics like fake fully-funded scholarships, lucrative part-time jobs, or high-yield investments to reel them in and steal their money.
As a generation that grew up with technology, students are more likely to engage in online activities for convenience, most of which are financial. From accessing and managing student loans to making purchases for textbooks, clothing, electronics, and other necessities, they rely on apps, web portals, and even public Wi-Fi to sort these tasks out.
But while doing so, they may fail to establish cyber hygiene habits that protect their financial information from malicious hands. This inadvertently exposes them to highly consequential threats, such as data breaches, cyber fraud, identity theft, and extortion.
College is a place where freshmen from different backgrounds are open-hearted toward honing their interpersonal skills, creating beautiful memories, and building lasting relationships. As a result, many of them tend to easily mistake “friendliness” for affection and trustworthiness—a vulnerability that exposes them to scams.
Scammers, being masters of persuasion and emotional manipulation, understand that students are more likely to believe people who seem accommodating or open to talking to them. So, they pose as “friends” who can help with money, housing, employment, or even emotional support, only to swindle their targets.
Now that we understand the motivations that scammers have for choosing students as their targets, it’s time we take a look at the ways they go about this. Note that some scammers may adopt multiple techniques or use a single one in different forms of extortion. In any case, you should be aware of them to stay safe.
Being indebted to student loans amounting to tens of thousands of dollars or more can be a constant source of worry for college students, making them likely inclined to seek help through student loan relief programs. However, not all programs are legit, especially those that guarantee immediate loan forgiveness and debt relief.
More often than not, these fake programs demand an upfront fee to complete “necessary” paperwork—a bait that once bitten leads to a dead end. So, for your financial and mental safety, it’s recommended that you stick to federal government-approved loan forgiveness programs.
Housing is a necessity for students whose institutions are far from home. In this context, nothing beats renting an apartment situated within a short distance from campus. However, finding one can be daunting when your financial situation is anything but ideal.
To grab your attention, scammers list nearby apartments or homes at ridiculously low or even standard rental rates when, in reality, such properties are either unavailable or non-existent. Ultimately, you might make an upfront deposit and provide personal information without ever laying eyes on the unit.
But how can you protect yourself? Reverse search the address of the property on Nuwber to see who its owners are and contact them to ask if the place is available for rent.
Credit cards are quite popular among students as they make it easier for them to handle college expenses—school supplies, textbooks, food, and leisure activities. According to statistics, 70% of undergraduates use credit cards, which makes them attractive targets for identity thieves and fraudsters.
Certain scams involve the use of misrepresented real credit cards, leading to hidden fees, high-interest rates, and unmet conditions. To steer clear of such pitfalls, conduct a thorough investigation of credit card offers before applying, and be cautious of those that appear overly advantageous.
The academic environment is rife with financial opportunities scammers exploit to make a quick buck at the expense of unsuspecting students. They come up with several tactics, such as those discussed in this guide.
As a student, the onus is on you to keep your guard up against deals that swear by instant results. To be sure you’re dealing with the right parties, use only trusted and secure channels and share personal information as little as possible.