As college students head off to campus in the coming days, scammers and identity thieves are waiting for the chance to strike. From housing and utilities scams to credit card fraud to fake job offers, there is a wide range of crimes that incoming college students should be wary of.
Housing & Rental Scams
For students who look for off-campus housing, finding a great, affordable apartment or condo can be even harder than their coursework. Unfortunately, for students who seek their housing options online, the potential for switch and bait scams or phony applications that contain sensitive identifying information is all too real. It’s important to only use vetted rental sources—rather than “some guy whose brother has an apartment”—and to investigate the location thoroughly. Fortunately, today’s college students have a tool at their disposal that allows them to investigate a given address. Searching for the address of the apartment or home online can let you know about the veracity of the posting.
Most campus housing options will factor in most of your utilities, but off-campus choices will often mean signing up for utilities. Unfortunately, this is a great opportunity for someone to use your identity to open accounts and then never pay the bill. If you’re turned down for an account, or if you receive double billing or unusually high bills, you might have already been the victim of this kind of scam.
New regulations have cracked down on predatory credit card companies targeting college students. It used to be a mainstay of college life that vendors would give out free incentives and prizes to students who filled out a new credit card application. At best, students were given multiple high-interest credit cards that ended up leading to punishing debt. At worst, these vendors were unscrupulous and used the information on the applications to steal identities.
If you are in need of a credit card, do your homework. Look for one with a reasonable interest rate that will also offer you incentives like cash back bonuses, airline points if your college is far from home, and more. Fill out the application online or over the phone rather than handing it off to a representative.
For most college students, finding a job that pays well, works around their class schedules, and requires little effort (leaving them free to study during their work hours) might seem ideal. Unfortunately, it’s a common setup for an employment scam. In these job scams, thieves are after a variety of things, including your money or your identity. It’s also important to remember that some of these jobs offers prey off of young people’s lack of awareness, meaning a number of reported scams actually hire people to break the law.
There are work opportunities that will help you pay your way while also letting you get your classwork done, but it takes finding a reputable employer. Remember, never fill out all of your information on a job application, and make sure the job is genuine before you turnover the rest of your identity.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.