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College students are seen as easy targets for perpetrators – those who seek to hurt them or take advantage of their naivete. There are the more obvious things for students to protect themselves from such as those discussed in The 3 Rules I Made My Daughter Promise to Obey In College, but there are other, less obvious ways others may seek to take advantage of or hurt them. Knowledge is key. Read on to learn the ways criminals are targeting innocent people and college students specifically. The first two involve personal safety and are followed by common scams aimed at victimizing college students including recent FBI warnings.
The bump is pretty simple. In this case the perpetrator, singling out someone who is driving alone, will use his car to ‘bump’ a car from behind. Think about what we normally do if we are in a fender bender – we get out of our car, examine the damage, exchange insurance information, etc. This is when you become vulnerable. If you are in a situation similar to this, drive to a well lit public area where there are other people present before exiting your car. Better yet, if you feel vulnerable, call the police and don’t exit your car until they arrive.
The money trick
In this, the perpetrator puts money under the windshield wiper of a parked vehicle. They wait for the person to come back knowing that as they are driving off they will notice the money, stop their car, and get out to retrieve it. This is where you become vulnerable.There are no parking lot fairies who leave money on cars as gifts to the drivers. Do not stop your car and get out. Continue to a well lit public area before you exit your car. This tactic has been used in carjackings but could also be used to victimize a lone driver. Notify the police that this has occurred as it is a known tactic and likely that the location will be targeted again.
Phishing is a form of fraud where the perpetrator falsely presents themselves as a representative of a legitimate institution (like a bank, government agency, credit card company, etc) in order to gain personal information from its victim. This attack can come through social media, emails, texts, or phone calls. Make sure your student understands that they should never provide personal information to an unknown source. Banks, credit card companies, and government agencies will never call or email asking for personal information. If your student is ever solicited, they can contact institutions directly to verify if there are any legitimate account issues.
The FBI’s recent warnings for college students
In May, 2017, the FBI issued a warning to college students regarding an “education tax” scam in which the perpetrators were contacting students as representatives of the IRS demanding immediate payment for an unpaid tax with the threat of arrest for non-compliance. Let your student know that they should never provide their credit card or bank information to an unverified source. Also explain to the them that the IRS will never phone them for any reason demanding personal information or credit card payment. They just don’t work that way.
In June, 2017, the FBI released a warning to college students regarding a credit card scheme. Universities had been reporting that unsuspecting students were being approached by perpetrators at campus bookstores pretending to be students who had ‘forgotten’ their ID’s. They will then ask an unsuspecting student to make a purchase for them using (what the student doesn’t know is) a fraudulent credit card. The purchases were usually bigger ticket items like electronics.
In January, 2017, the FBI issue a warning of an employment scam targeting college students. In this scam, phony administrative positions were being posted online. Once “hired” the student receives a fraudulent check with the instructions of depositing it into their checking account and using the funds to purchase required office equipment or training materials for their new position. By the time the bank determines the check to be fraudulent, your student has already withdrawn their own funds and sent them to an illegitimate source. Teach your student that legitimate employment opportunities will not require an upfront fee or purchase.
The tuition scam
In this scam, the student is contacted by someone representing themselves as a university administrator saying that their tuition is late and that if they don’t pay immediately over the phone with a credit card, they will be dropped from their classes. As with some of the other scams, your student should know never to give their credit card or bank information to an unknown source. If your student is concerned that the phone call might be legitimate, have them disconnect and call the school’s registrar directly.
Fake textbook sites
The typical poor college student looks for ways to save money. Unfortunately, according to the Better Business Bureau, there are people who are setting up phony textbook sites and luring students to purchase with lower than usual pricing and collecting money for books that will never arrive. Instruct your child to never purchase anything from an unknown site they haven’t researched or found legitimate reviews of.
Knowledge is key
Educating your student about possible scams is important as they are seen as easy targets to perpetrators. Teach them to trust their gut. Instruct them to protect their personal information and be suspect of anyone asking for it. Tell them not to share their passwords or pin numbers even with friends. I always tell my daughter, when in doubt, call me and ask!