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Five Scams Targeting College Students and How to Avoid Them

Charlie Fletcher

Five Scams Targeting College Students and How to Avoid Them

College can be a difficult time financially. You’re trying to make it on your own and have to make every dollar count to ensure that ends meet.

Unfortunately, scammers are aware of the position you are in and see you as an easy target. During your years in college, it’s highly likely that you’ll be targeted by a scam of some kind. You can reduce your risk of being tricked by learning about some of the common scams that target college students and how to avoid them.

Credit Card Scams

If you’re financially secure, your college years can be a great time to build credit. You’ll have to make a few major purchases every semester, and it’ll look great on your credit history when you pay these off in a timely manner.

However, scammers know that college students are looking for lucrative credit card deals and will do anything to take your hard-earned money. You need to remain vigilant during your college years to avoid the most common credit card scams.

As a student, you may think that you have the awareness necessary to detect phishing scams. However, phishing scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated. You might, for example, receive an email from someone posing as the Dean of your college or a professor — only to find out they are actually a scammer.

Slow down whenever you receive any information remotely related to finances. Read the sender’s address, and follow up in person with anyone that you think may have notified you about credit cards or financial deals. Don’t open any suspicious emails and never give your details out if you aren’t entirely confident that you are speaking to a legitimate company.

Credit card scammers will try to take advantage of your precarious financial position by running “overcharging” scams. Overcharging scams occur when you are told that you have been overcharged and are due a rebate. In reality, these scammers just want your card details so they can drain your account. Watch out for any rebates or low-interest-rate offers that don’t relate to your actual spending history. Visit your bank if you’re still unsure, as they can help you identify legitimate deals and offers.

Housing Scams

You’ll view some dodgy-looking apartments and houses during your college years. In addition to black mold and leaky pipes, you need to watch out for half-truths and deceptive information that targets college students.

If you’re searching online, watch out for digital housing scams. Folks will pose as legitimate agents, only so they can collect your personal information and disappear. So, double-check the veracity of any letting agents before arranging viewings or signing papers.

Watch out for misleading photography, too. Letting agents will use anything from fish-eye lenses to low-angle pictures to make a property look more appealing. While this isn’t technically a scam, it can be frustrating when you show up and find that your new home isn’t what you expected. Avoid disappointment by viewing in person and checking the blueprints to get exact measurements and sizes.

Romance Scams

For many, college is a time of romance and relationships. You’ll meet plenty of like-minded folks when you attend college and may want to meet a life partner between your study sessions.

Unfortunately, romance scams are on the rise. The FBI receives as many as 24,000 romance scam complaints a year and “girlfriend gifts” have accounted for losses in excess of $1 billion.

As a student, you may think that you can tell a tinder date from a catfishing attempt. However, scammers are becoming increasingly heartless and sophisticated. As a rule of thumb, don’t give gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person. Even then, monetary gifts are hardly a sure sign of romantic interest.

Instead, take it slow and get to know your potential partner before you start thinking about romantic gifts. Slow down, and be sure that you can trust them and their interests. If you find that they flake on you more often than not, then they may well be a scammer.

Financial Aid Scams

Every college student wants to win a scholarship or earn extra financial aid. College is expensive, and financial gifts can make a real difference to your quality of life. However, scammers around the country offer illegitimate financial aid in the hopes of stealing your cash.

Stick to trusted sources when searching for scholarships. Your college probably has a financial aid portal with scholarships that have been vetted by professionals. Avoid any scholarships that ask for “advanced payments” as you should not have to pay to enter a scholarship drawing. Instead, stick to legitimate sources that offer free entry for financial aid opportunities.


During your college years, you’ll log on to dozens of public computers and surf the web using an array of hotspots and wifi providers. This makes you an easy target for cyber scammers, who know you’re busy working on assignments and may not have the tightest digital security.

Start by blocking spam calls and robocalls. Robocalls and spam change their message frequently and may offer anything from IRS refunds to new cars. As a rule of thumb, you can’t trust an unknown number and should sign up to robocall blockers to reduce your risk of being scammed.

Keep your passwords up to date and avoid the temptation to save passwords on devices that aren’t your own. If Google notifies you about a breach, you should change your passwords ASAP and check your bank account. Acting swiftly can reduce your risk of being scammed and ensure that you keep hold of your well-earned income.


As a college student, scammers believe you are an easy target. Being aware of the most common scams can reduce your risk of being tricked. Even small changes, like following up on email correspondence in person, can reduce your risk of being scammed and ensure that you are able to fully focus on your studies.

SEE ALSO: Should I Buy This? A Guide for Budgeting in College

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