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State warns new college students of scams, identity theft

Posted 8/11/22

With the COVID-19 pandemic no longer shutting down colleges and universities, many teenagers will soon take the next big step in their lives and move into dormitories and start living independently …

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State warns new college students of scams, identity theft

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With the COVID-19 pandemic no longer shutting down colleges and universities, many teenagers will soon take the next big step in their lives and move into dormitories and start living independently for the first time — which is fertile ground for scams.

The state Division of Consumer Protection has information on some typical scams to warn new college students, so that they can avoid getting tricked when they start living on their own for possibly the first time in their lives.

“The best way for college students to avoid textbook, scholarship or rental scams is to be informed,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez.

“This is an exciting time as students, often on their own for the first time, learn how to balance their freedom and responsibilities. This new independence makes them targets for scammers,” the secretary of state added.

“The goal of the Division of Consumer Protection is to educate students and arm them with knowledge to protect themselves against identity theft, scams and other safety prevention tips,” Rodriguez added.

New York State has nearly 300 higher education institutions — the second highest in the country — and state officials warn about the many decisions students will have to make at the start of an academic year.

Among these many decisions are living away from home, often for the first time, navigating financial aid, developing their own banking skills and even building credit.

Common scams that take advantage of new college students include:

• Fake scholarships, grants or loans. Don’t believe anyone who offers guarantees or pre-approvals for loans or grants. The paperwork to apply for financial aid is completely free.

• Unpaid tuition. Ignore calls claiming that you’ll be dropped from all classes unless you pay tuition immediately over the phone.

Always call the school bursar’s office directly to verify your account status. Colleges and universities generally send an invoice to alert students of account status.

• Fake employment or internship offers. Never pay an upfront fee to move forward in an interview process or provide too much personal information, such as your social security number, during the application or interview process.

• Buying books online. Scam artists set up fake websites and offer great deals on expensive textbooks only to never deliver the textbooks leaving the student out of cash and with no textbook.

Learn how to identify fake websites listings for textbooks and supplies.

Before you buy, do your research, and confirm it’s a reputable source. Pay attention to contact information and return policies.

Legitimate sites provide a physical address and working phone number in the contact section.

• Roommate or rental scam. Scammers pose as an individual selling or renting a property or as someone on behalf of a property owner. Potential renters are then solicited for money in exchange for promises that the homes will be shown to them or rented to them upon completion of payment.

The scam is realized when there is no home for sale, or the property is already occupied.

• Credit cards. College students are often applying for the first credit cards of their lives. Students are often targeted with misleading credit card offers that could be a veiled attempt at identity theft or may charge exorbitant annual fees and interest rates.

Along with targeted scams, new college students are also at greater risk of identity theft through other means. Again for the first time in their lives, students might be required to hold onto their own important documents, like a social security card or birth certificate.

Whether in a dorm room, online or in any social situation, students are warned to keep all information and documents private and securely guarded.

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