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Five Scams Targeting College Students and How to Avoid Them

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

Valentine’s Day Scams on the Rise

In 2018, when we got Dirty John, the Fyre Festival and Anna Delvey, it seemed like we were living in the time of peak scams. But it turns out that was just the warm up to 2019—a year that is bringing us countless scam-focused documentaries, series, movies and podcasts. We’re calling it: this year is the year of the scam, and Valentine’s Day is bringing all of the scammers out of hiding.

Scammers have always relied on romance to grease the wheels of their cons, so it makes sense that the most romantic time of year can become a playground for grifters. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said in 2016 that it received 15,000 romance scam complaints during that year alone. And girlfriend grifts accounted for a loss of over $1 billion in North America since 2015.

The rules your parents gave you about not meeting strangers from the internet don’t quite apply anymore, with online dating sites and apps on the rise. There are plenty of legit people on online dating sites that spend time messaging before meeting. Here are a few tips to spot the ones that are fake. On this Valentine’s Day, keep your boo close and your common sense closer. A good rule of thumb? If someone seems too perfect, they probably are.

Too hot to be true

Scammers catfish you by using good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Oftentimes, they pretend to be in the military—a story which gives them a good reason to be overseas. In fact, the military man con is so common that some actual men in the military have discovered that their photos are being regularly used for nefarious purposes. Marine Juan Avalos is one of those people, and he now includes a warning on his account about catfishing because his photos are stolen so regularly.

Moving fast

A romance scammer will tell you they love you quickly and start talking about a future together early on in the relationship. But scammers are usually following a script, feeding the same lines to dozens of people at once. If they say they’ve never felt this way before right off the bat, your alarm bells should ring.

Talking about trust

Con artists are relentless and ruthless, showing no compassion for their victims and attempting to extort them for every last penny. They use every trick in the book, including appealing to your instincts about trust, manipulating you by talking about how important this is. However, this is usually the first step to asking for money.

Not interested in hooking up on a hook-up app

Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone your dates, usually by saying they are traveling or live overseas. Given how frequently your Tinder crush flakes on you, it can be hard to differentiate this behavior, but maybe this is a sign to stop giving these guys a second chance overall.

Suspicious language

If this person claims to be from your hometown, watch to make sure that their language matches that of your region. If they have poor spelling or grammar, use overly flowery language, or use phrases that don’t make sense, it could be a sign that they working off of a romance scam script.

Never wire money

Never. No. Nope. Just don’t do it. Don’t ever send money or personal information that can be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone you’ve never met financial resources to visit you. In fact, if someone you’re chatting with online requests you credit card info, bank numbers or other personal information, cut off the conversation right then.

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