Life on your own as a college student can be fun and exhilarating. However, you may also be faced with new challenges and responsibilities. It’s important to be aware that some scammers may try to take advantage of your inexperience and attempt to steal your identity or your cash.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued warnings about job scams aimed at college students. One type of scam lures students with phony job openings.
These online postings often offer entry-level administrative positions, but the student never meets the “employer.” Instead, a check is sent to the applicant who is instructed to deposit it into a personal checking account. The student is directed to keep some of the money as salary and wire the rest to a vendor to purchase materials or supplies. Later, the bank will discover that the original check is counterfeit. Depositing a bogus check could cause waves of damages. Not only will the student be responsible for reimbursing the bank for the amount of the fraudulent check, but the account could even be closed for fraud.
Phone scams are another menace. One common theme revolves around the bogus “federal student tax.” Callers posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents intimidate some students into paying this nonexistent tax. In 2016, both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the IRS warned of this scam, and it continues to circulate.
In August 2017, North Carolina State University (NC State) warned about another phone scam that cost students on campus a total of $58,000. In this scenario, imposter IRS agents call a student and demand immediate payment in gift cards for an outstanding debt.
One NC State senior told a local TV station that the caller terrified her. The phone voice claimed her credit report would be irreparably damaged if she didn’t comply immediately. Only $2,000 of the $14,000 this student paid was recoverable. Report incidents like this immediately to the IRS.
Parents and grandparents of students can also be targets. In November 2017, Boston Massachusetts Police Commissioner William Evans issued a warning to area colleges and universities about scammers claiming to be a student in jail who needed bond money. The scammers can often glean a great deal about students from social media accounts, and the calls can be quite convincing.
Help Better Protect Yourself
Be proactive in protecting yourself from scams:
- Be careful what you share on social media and how and where you share personally identifiable information (PII) such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, or bank account information.
- When pursuing job opportunities, remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
- And, keep in mind, the IRS will not call you to demand immediate payment using gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfer.