ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — College students are gearing up to head back to school, but scammers are ready to take advantage of these young adults’ lack of financial experience.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says those between the ages of 20 and 30 end up losing money to fraud more often than older consumers because they are constantly online.

When young adults are dropped off at college, the BBB says many of them are ill-equipped with money, adding that those who live alone or have low financial literacy levels are more likely to become victims of scammers

In order to protect college students from identity theft, the BBB urges you not to be so trusting when it comes to your personal information, whether online or in person. For example, don’t let friends borrow your credit or debt card, don’t leave your card(s) lying around, and don’t be so eager to sign up for credit or debt cards without taking precautions.

“Be careful about signing up for credit cards because you can get in a whole lot of trouble if you don’t know how to manage yourself, so set a budget, know how to manage yourself, and don’t get yourself into a hole that you can’t dig out of,” said Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia.

Whether you’re a rising freshman or the parent of one, the bureau recommends the following steps for building sound financial habits that will provide lifelong benefits:

  • Be responsible with credit and debit cards:
    • The BBB recommends using a debit card for daily items and credit cards for unplanned expenses.
    • The bureau also emphasizes the importance of students building their credit history, adding that they need to understand that interest rates, late fees, and other charges will impact the amount owed. 
    • In addition, when choosing a credit card, make sure to look at the annual fee, the interest rate, grace period, and late fees.
  • Guard your personal information both online and offline:
    • Shred unnecessary documents that include personal information, like social security numbers or bank account numbers.
    • While the BBB urges people to go paperless to avoid potential opportunities for identity thieves, anyone who does print out account information — like paper statements, passwords, or debit or credit card details — should keep it in a safe and secure location in your dorm room.
    • Never share your PIN number with anyone.
    • Regularly monitor financial accounts by setting up app alerts.
  • Take advantage of student perks:
    • If you have a cafeteria or a meal plan, the BBB encourages you to avoid spending extra money on food. Before you decide on a meal plan, though, you should research the available options at your school, most of which will be much cheaper than outside meals.
    • When you do go out, take advantage of any student discounts at businesses or venues.
  • Pay less for textbooks:
    • Research different websites and retailers — like Amazon or eBay — to get the best deal on textbooks.
    • When possible, buy used books at the campus bookstore so you can sell them back at the end of the semester. You could also rent textbooks at the bookstore or from sites like Chegg.com.
  • Stick to a budget:
    • Following an organized budget — which parents can set up each semester — will help students stay on track with spending and financial goals. 
      • “Begin with income. Calculate how much will be available – either from parents, savings, a part-time job, financial aid, grants or loans, or other revenue sources. Include books, rent, food, entertainment, and other expenses,” the BBB writes. “Remember to include a certain amount in your budget for emergency purposes.”
  • Start saving money now:
    • Developing good saving habits early on will help students reap lifelong benefits.
      • “In your 20s, you have a small window of opportunity to wield the power of compounded interest,” the BBB website states.
  • Understand the dangers of debt:
    • Understand the importance of paying off debt in a timely and responsible manner
    • Know the basics of debt management:
      • Pay on time.
      • Pay more than the minimum payment due.
      • Avoid missed or late payments that result in costly late fees, higher interest rates, and negative marks on their credit report.
  • Find reputable credit counselors by contacting the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

The BBB also warns college students about the risks of falling for “too good to be true” solutions, urging them to resist the “make hundreds of dollars, no experience necessary” employment schemes; the “guaranteed” loan offers; and the unsolicited e-mails promising to reduce or eliminate problematic debt.

You can check out more financial recommendations from the BBB by following this link.