During this time of year, students prepare for the upcoming semester and purchase necessary items such as textbooks, laptops, meal plans, and budgeting for other living expenses.
The National Retail Federation expects total spending on back-to-college goods to hit a record $74 billion in 2022, averaging nearly $1,200 per household. Households with college-aged children and K-12 can spend upwards of $2,000 on back-to-school items this year.
To help offset the cost of college and for their own expenses, many young adults seek employment near their college, which can have disastrous results if the employer turns out to be fraudulent. Adding to this risk, rising inflation has led more consumers to buy their back-to-school items online, providing scammers with the opportunity to advertise high-demand products at low prices that never get delivered.
According to BBB’s 2021 Scam Tracker Risk Report, adults ages 18-24 reported a median loss of $170 due to scams. Students were found to be more vulnerable when exposed to a scam, with just over half (51.5%) of students reporting monetary loss compared to non-students (42%). Employment scams have been identified as the second riskiest scam affecting Scam Tracker victims aged 18-24, many of whom emphasize flexible hours or remote work opportunities.
Texas college and university students reported nearly $100,000 lost to scams this year, with the three most reported scams being online shopping, employment, and phishing. In North America in 2021, 21.2% of all BBB Scam Tracker reports by 18-24 year olds were employment scams, and 26% were online purchases.
Whether you are a student starting school away from home or have young students who may be vulnerable to such scams, BBB recommends being careful of these scams before embarking on the new semester.
Fake credit cards. The offers of applying for their first credit card tempt many students as they navigate the financial obligations of attending college.
However, uncontrolled spending on credit cards can create financial hardship down the road, and some offers offered may be designed to access personal information. Take the time to research offers from credit card flyers as well as banking institutions before applying. Visit BBB.org for more tips on identifying and preventing credit card scams.
Fraudulent apartment listings. When looking for apartments, it’s hard not to jump at the opportunity to live in an apartment close to campus, especially if it advertises affordable rent.
If the apartment requires credit card or banking information to “book” or “lock” the unit, BBB strongly recommends viewing the apartment before transferring money. Just like other scams, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. These tips also apply to online listings for those looking for roommates or taking over a lease.
Scholarship and grant scams. Beware of phone calls from companies that “guarantee” you will receive a scholarship or grant if you use their services.
Spend time researching the company and contacting the school’s financial aid office for advice on funding your education.
Scholarship scams can affect college graduates for years after graduation and can increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft. Visit BBB.org for more tips on how to identify and avoid scholarship scams.
Online shopping scams. Online shopping continues to take a heavy toll on American consumers of all age groups. Recently, pet scams have become one of the costliest online purchases made by consumers, with many losing thousands of dollars between purchasing the animal and arranging for it to be transported. .
In any case, when purchasing from an online retailer, BBB recommends using a credit card whenever possible due to the added protection it offers to waive charges for services or goods that are never returned or received.
Employment scams. Work-from-home positions and flexible hours are a big draw for college-age job seekers, allowing them to easily work around their class schedule.
However, sensitive personal information provided to employers may put a student at a higher risk of identity theft if the employer is found to be fraudulent. Others find themselves short of money after depositing a bogus check or not receiving any payment after working for the company for weeks.
Take the time to verify that the job posting is legit and beware of positions that are more likely to be scams, such as package forwarding, secret shopper, or car wrap advertising. Learn more about the growing rates of employment scams in Texas by visiting BBB.org.