Back to school scams range from financial aid scams to bogus retail promotions. Read on to learn more about some of the most common scams.
Back to school season is a well known time of year in our society. It is a busy time of year when parents and college students are buying clothing, books, school supplies and an entire laundry list of items associated with “back to school” time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 77.2 million children, and adults enrolled in school throughout this country. They cumulatively spend about 8.8 billion on clothes and 1.6 billion on books during back to school time!
For crooks and scammers, this is an excellent time of year. There is a laundry list of back-to-school scams that we all need to be aware of. Please read on as we touch on some of the most common schemes used by back-to-school scammers to help you avoid becoming a victim of back-to-school scams.
Beware of These Back to School Scams
Scholarship, Grants and Financial Aid Scams
Due to the significant increase over the past ten years in the cost of tuition, more and more students are applying for some financial aid. This also means an increase in scammers phishing for victims.
First off, no legal scholarship or grant application will require any advance of processing fee. There is no money paid for obtaining a scholarship or grant. Pay close attention to the paperwork you fill out for any financial aid since no one should be asking for cash, credit card information or bank account information. Keep in mind, the only way to receive educational grants is by filling out Free Applications for Federal Student Aid FAFSA) application.
The bottom line on any financial aid application should not require payment of any type. Other paths to be aware of are anyone calling offering free government grant money, being told that you have been selected for a scholarship and a deposit is required to “hold your position, or a company calling and saying they need your checking account information to verify your eligibility. Beware of scammers if there are any requests for money.
Distant Education Scams
Distant education scams have become more familiar with the increasing number of students turning to the internet for their college degree.
You should avoid handing money over to an institution that has the following characteristics; tuition is charged per degree which is often award based on ‘life experience”, diplomas are guaranteed with payment and can be obtained in very short periods of time, the school is not accredited and is not recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Back to School Door to Door Scams
Another common scam to be aware of is scammers that are going door to door posing as school district volunteers looking for donations for athletic departments, science programs, charitable organizations and those selling textbooks.
Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and feeling like you have to hand over money right this minute. Ask for flyers or other materials related to their cause. Ask questions about the reason they represent. Pertinent questions can throw off the scammers. Don’t be afraid to say no even though they are standing in front of you.
Identify Theft Scms
When back to school time rolls around, you will be filling out a lot of forms and signing a lot of documents. If you’re a college student, this could include entrance applications, apartment leases, credit applications, etc. If you’re a parent, it could be daycare paperwork or co-signing for your college student, etc.
Here are a few tips during this busy time to prevent identity theft:
- Unless you have initiated the process, don’t give out your personal information over the phone.
- Don’t open emails relating to winning free school supplies etc. if you click here.
- Make sure your antivirus software is up to date, and your firewall is active.
- When filling out paperwork online, make sure that you are using a secure connection by looking for a”lock” image in the upper left-hand corner of your browser.
The National Retail Federation reports that more than 45 percent of Americans will shop online for back to school products. This means there will be a lot of shipping confirmations as well. Scammers are aware of this, so they send out mass emails with subject lines like “Your order has been delayed” or “Re: Shipping Info. When you open them, you’ll be taken to a third party site that looks like UPS but in reality, you will download malware, and they can steal your sensitive data.
This is the time of year when those utterly ridiculous too good to be genuine offers come across your computer or phone screen offering a free Walmart gift card by entering personal information. Don’t do it. No one gives away gift cards.
Back to School time is a hectic time for parents and college students. It is the perfect time for scammers to sneak in there and pull a fast one. Keep your guard up and be alert and aware. If you feel that you have been a victim of a back to school scam, please contact your local law enforcement agency and Social Catfish and also our reverse image search to help you in identifying your back to school scammer.