BBB warns college students about identity theft, other back-to-school scams

Scam Alerts

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — With students going back to college, scammers are taking advantage of these young adults. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says identity theft is the most significant threat, especially with incoming freshmen.

According to the BBB, college students between the ages of 18 and 24 are the ones being targeted by scammers. Experts say members of this age group have higher losses than the age 65 and older group. A major reason for these losses is that college students are online all the time, which makes them vulnerable to scams, like identity theft.

One way scammers steal college students’ identities is through credit cards.

Almost half of these students receive applications for pre-approved credit cards on a daily or weekly basis. However, many throw out those card applications without destroying them, setting themselves up for identity theft.

“If you receive those credit card offers, you want to shred them, do not just throw those in the trash,” said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia. “There’s already enough information on there that somebody can complete that, and unfortunately get a credit card in your name.”

To avoid scams and identity theft, the BBB encourages students to arrange for important mail and pre-approved credit cards to be sent to a permanent address, like their parents’ home instead of their dorm.

Another way to protect their identity — especially when living in a dorm or sharing an apartment — is to store your important documents like a social security card, passport, bank statements, or credit card statements in a safe manner. If you do throw away any documents with sensitive financial information, shred them rather than just tossing them in the trash.

Here are some other steps to fight identity theft on campus:

  • Never lend your credit or debit card to anyone. If your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for a TV or other items, just say no. Also, when using an ATM or credit card machine, don’t let anyone “shoulder surf” your PIN number.
  • Never give out your passwords to anyone. Make sure to use strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all sites.
  • Watch for phishing. Be vigilant and be careful of clicking on links in emails and texts. Instead, verify the content with the website.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. In addition, always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
  • Always check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity, because the sooner you identify any potential fraud, the less you’ll suffer in the long run.
  • Be careful when shopping online. Check out businesses on the BBB’s website for the BBB Accredited Business seal to confirm that they are legitimate.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year. You are entitled to one free report a year from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, so look out for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies.

Meanwhile, many college students are looking for apartments and housing this time of year, which is why the BBB is also reminding students to watch out for the “too good to be true” deals.

In order to avoid being scammed, make sure you do your homework. In other words, check the property out and ask plenty of questions before putting a deposit down.

Other common scams that target college students include fake credit card scams; scholarship, loan, and grant scams; and online shopping scams.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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