ALBANY – The state Department of Consumer Protection is offering advice to help college students avoid fraud.
“The best way for college students to avoid textbook, scholarship or rent fraud is to do their research,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “This is an exciting time as students, often alone for the first time, to learn how to balance their freedom and responsibility. This newfound independence makes them targets for scammers.”
n Fake Scholarships, Grants or Loans – The paperwork required to apply for financial aid is the FAFSA form and it is completely free. Visit the FAFSA government website directly and do not believe anyone who offers guarantees or pre-approvals for loans or grants.
n Unpaid Tuition Scam – Ignore calls claiming that you will be kicked out of all courses if you don’t pay tuition over the phone right away. Always call the treasury office directly to check your account status. Schools generally send an invoice to notify students of account status.
n Fake job or internship offers – Never pay an upfront fee to advance in an interview, or give out too much personal information, such as your social security number, during the job or interview.
n Buying Books Online – Scammers set up fake websites and offer great deals on expensive textbooks only to never ship the textbooks leaving the student out of money and textbook.
Learn how to identify fake websites with textbooks and consumables. Before you buy, do your research and confirm it’s a reputable source.
Be aware of contact information and return policies. Legitimate websites provide a physical address and a working phone number in the contact section.
n Roommate/Rental Scams – Scammers pose as an individual selling or renting a property, or as someone on behalf of a property owner. Potential renters are then asked for money in exchange for a promise that the houses will be shown to them or rented to them upon completion of payment.
The scam is realized when there is no house for sale or the property is already occupied.
n Credit Cards – If you are applying for a credit card for the first time, do your own research. Students are often presented with misleading credit card offers that may constitute a veiled attempt at identity theft or charge exorbitant annual fees and interest rates.
College students are at high risk of identity theft, but you can minimize these risks by protecting yourself and keeping your information private.
It is important to understand the consequences of identity theft. Criminals can use personal information to create a fake identity and open new accounts or loans under a victim’s name.
Restoring credit and correcting incorrect information can be a costly and lengthy process, so it’s best to prevent this before it happens.
n Keep all personally identifiable information confidential.
Whether in a dorm room, online, or in any social situation, keep all information and documents containing personal information private and securely protected. Personal data is information that, alone or together with other relevant data, can identify an individual.
n Remember to always keep a safe copy of social security numbers and ask why they are needed before deciding to share them. Often organizations include the SSN request as a formality, and it may not be mandatory.
Ask if you can use a different type of identifier.
n Personal documents, check books, credit card statements, and other personal papers should always be kept securely locked.
n When seeking and applying for student loans or other financial aid applications, never give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you have made contact.
n Shred pre-approved credit card offers and bills before you dispose of them.
Social media posts often reveal sensitive information unintentionally. Cyber criminals seek content that can provide answers to security questions used to reset passwords, leaving accounts vulnerable to identity theft.
n Avoid downloading free music, games or apps. Often the free apps, music and games are infected with keylogger malware.
n Avoid using public WiFi/computers to shop online or pay bills.
n Monitor the privacy settings of all online accounts.
n Before you get rid of your old laptop or smartphone, protect your data so it doesn’t fall into the hands of an identity thief. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website for tips on protecting your privacy before you get rid of your devices.