SALEM, Va. (WFXR) – As local colleges and universities are headed back to class in the next few weeks, experts are warning students to be aware of scammers who may be trying to take advantage of personal and sensitive information.
College is the first time many young adults enter the real world as independents, with many leaving home for the first time, which often makes them more gullible and susceptible to identity thieves. According to the Better Business Bureau’s 2018 Risk Report, 41.6% of students reported a loss when exposed to a scam as compared to 28.3% of non-students.
When entering college, students are gifted the task of managing their own finances, and many tend to look for ways to save. According to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, students and parents should always be cautious about certain scams like identity theft, housing, and financial aid.
For tips on how college students can prevent identity theft, he encourages students to use strong passwords to protect their technological devices and to never easily display their personal information. It’s also recommended that students download firewalls and special software that prevents computer viruses from accessing certain information. Some social media sites even allow users to set a two-factor authentification that requires them to verify after each login.
For tips on how college students can prevent being targeted by housing scams, Attorney General Morrisey says students need to be aware of any false advertisements as they look for off-campus housing options during their college years. When searching, they should be cautious of certain websites like eBay and Craigslist. Landlords may sometimes ask for rent to be paid in advance with a promise to mail their key upon the receipt. He also encourages students to verify the housing accommodations because some may not even exist with the property.
Many high school seniors and college students rely on funding to help with ever-increasing college tuition, which can often make them targets to financial aid and scholarship scams. Attorney General Morrisey says when applying for scholarships, parents and students should research the legitimacy of them and to be familiar with the specific terms of any financial assistance before accepting. While there are many free websites to help students with their search, he says a popular scam involves websites charging a fee while claiming to find scholarships. Ultimately, he encourages every student to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) every year to receive additional funding.
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office issued this information as part of the sixth annual Off to College Consumer Protection Week.