As if college wasn’t stressful enough, here’s another thing for students to worry about: being on high alert for scams.
For many young people, college is the first taste of financial independence; scammers prey on this naivete. Also, the expense of college gives students financial pressure, which becomes ammunition for scammers.
Read on to discover three tricks criminals use to steal your money, and how to increase your personal safety.
1.) The ‘Federal Student Tax’
Taxes are complicated for college students. With so much uncertainty, students are vulnerable to misinformation.
This vulnerability is exploited in a scam targeting college students. The scammer calls or emails, impersonating the IRS and claiming the student didn’t pay the “federal student tax.” The student is instructed to pay immediately, and is threatened with fines, penalties or even jail time.
Obviously, there’s no such thing as a federal student tax. Additionally, the IRS never contacts anyone for the first time by phone or email; they only use certified letters.
The best defense against this scam is to get tax help. Many organizations exist to help students navigate their taxes; these will protect you from tax scams.
2.) Paper mills
It’s 3 a.m., your paper is due in several hours, and you’re desperate for help. Then you find a site willing to sell you a paper. It’s not cheap, but you enter your credit card number and cross your fingers.
The paper turns out to be substandard, mostly copied from obvious sources. It contains numerous errors and has little to do with your chosen topic. You definitely will not get a good grade on the paper.
Worse yet, a month later, mysterious charges appear on your credit card bill. The paper-writing company sold you a failing paper, and then stole your identity!
Naturally, you can avoid this problem by doing your own writing. Most colleges have writing centers available to help you write your essays.
3.) Scholarship fees
Many scammers use tuition expenses to lure their victims, promising scholarships as bait. These scholarships are ultimately useless, and generally turn out to be a ripoff.
In one such scam, a company will offer to sell you a list of hard-to-find scholarships. Since they’re obscure, you’ll think you have a better chance at getting them. In truth, most of these scholarships are for specific institutions or have exceptionally narrow requirements. Worse yet, the information on these lists is publicly available.
Alternately, you may be contacted by a scholarship agency offering you a generous scholarship. They’ve had a shortage of applicants and so you only need to pay a “processing fee” to supposedly secure your future. The scholarship, though, will go to “another applicant” — if it exists at all.
Keep yourself safe by being proactive. Look for opportunities yourself to ensure that what you’re applying for is legitimate.