BBB: College Students Heading Back to School Should be Alert to Scams

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is warning college students to watch out for scams before heading back to school.

The organization says this is a popular time of year for scammers to try to get personal and financial information.

The BBB says college move-in, financial aid, and roommate rental scams are quite common.

The business says never pay a deposit on an apartment you have not seen in person, investigate consolidation financial aid companies, and never wire money to someone you do not know.

In order to spot the signs of a con artist before they obtain personnel or financial information the BBB is offering tips to avoid falling for some common scams:

Employment Scams: These scams are intended to target students who are unemployed with a quick and easy way to make money. They usually arrive by email and offer a “great opportunity.” Always research the company’s name and website before participating in these opportunities. Things to consider are how long the company has been in business and any former complaints and reviews it has received.

Online Shopping Scams: Since many students shop online for convenience, these scammers are targeting students by selling popular items at a large discounted price. Different online companies are also offering trial offers that may end up charging you in the long run. Before purchasing any merchandise online, make sure the URL link starts with https and look for a small lock icon in the corner of the URL bar. And always confirm the business address for legitimacy and contact them directly to verify. Checking the URL information can give you the creation date, registration name and address.

Social Media: Social media is a great way to connect with a future roommate or find properties to rent. But it is important to do it the right way. Before reaching out to anyone, map out your must-haves. Share your essential needs with prospective roomies or landlords while you research who might be a good fit. Remember: When communicating with people, never share your personal or financial information.

ID Theft: This is a great time to chat with your student about the best ways to protect their finances. Secure personal information such as a social security card and financial statements in a lockbox, safe, or safety deposit box at your local bank; shred unneeded financial documents instead of simply tossing them in the trash. College students often receive credit card offers, which should be shredded as well; protect your mail by having important letters or financial information sent to your home address, rather than a university mailroom or apartment mailbox. Thieves often target these areas looking for ways to pick up a victim’s identity.

College Move-in Scams: Never pay a deposit on an apartment you haven’t seen in person. This is a common trap for students who are out of town and cannot look at the property prior to moving in. Also, avoid renting from someone who wants payment in advance via money transfer.

Financial Aid Scams: These scams can include scholarships, financial aid and seminars. A request for some kind of payment up front for a scholarship or student loan is a sign of a scam. Investigate any potential services or consolidation companies by visiting our website or by calling us at 414-847-6000 or toll-free at 1-800-273-1002.

Roommate/Rental Scams: In these scams, students are targeted by posts on sites such as Craigslist from others looking for a roommate. The BBB suggests to always confirm exactly who you’re dealing with by asking for their name, street address, and telephone number. Never wire money to someone you don’t know, and avoid accepting payments for more than the agreed price (overpayment scam). Also, never assume that a check is legitimate. Last, be wary of emails that are poorly written and contain misspellings and grammatical errors.

To see how to use free resources the organization says can be the key to connecting students with businesses and service providers you can trust.

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