Scammers set sights on college students

As parents and students arrive back on college campuses this week at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati, they are receiving warnings about scammers, who have been hitting the books all summer to concoct innovative ways to rip people off.

“Whether it’s the first year or the final year of college, life before the beginning of the school year is busy for students. There’s setting up class schedules, making sure course credits are accounted for, and getting all of the course materials together before classes start,” said Sandy Guile of the Better Business Bureau of Cincinnati. “There is little time to deal with a scam, but plenty of opportunity for a scammer to strike if a student is not paying attention.”

According to the BBB, there are three popular scams circulating now: the federal student tax scheme, the free government grant scheme and the scholarship scheme. These scams are carried out by email or a phone call and all have the same motive — to steal money or personal information from college students.

The federal student tax scam works similar to a fake IRS scam, according to Guile. A scammer calls the victim and claims that he or she is in trouble with the government and owes a considerable amount of debt.

In the false government grant scam, victims are told they are the recipient of a grant to put toward education costs.

“To sweeten the deal, the scammer tells them they don’t have to pay it back,” Guile said. “However, the only way the money can be claimed is if the student agrees to cover a processing fee or some other fine that is typically not associated with a grant.”

The third scam involves scholarship applications. College expenses increase each year and students are looking for the best possible way to manage costs.

“Unfortunately, scammers have found a way to create fraudulent forms, websites, and marketing materials making claims to have ways to finance the cost of higher education at minimal or no cost,” Guile said.

These schemes encourage applicants to send money upfront for the scholarship but provide little to nothing in exchange, she said.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning students about such scams.

“People of all ages can be targeted by scams. For a student with limited income, losing money to a con artist can be devastating,” DeWine said.

Miami University police recently alerted students to a scam involving telephone calls that attempted to get students to send money, according to Ritter Hoy, a media relations representative for the Butler County university.

The caller stated they were either a police officer or a department of taxation worker and would tell students they owed “student taxes” and if they didn’t send the money, a warrant would be issued for the student’s arrest.

This was completely not true, Hoy said, and students were advised to simply hang up the phone.

Haley Webb, 19, a student at Miami University, said she takes extra precautions to protect her identity.

“I had a notice on my computer that it had a virus and the notice looked authentic like it was from Apple,” Webb said. “I had clicked on it, but then called Apple and realized the notice was a scam. I’m just really careful now about my personal information and how I navigate online.”

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