Posted on 01 July 2014.
College! Kiss parental rules goodbye! You make your own decisions, set your own schedule and basically live the life you’ve been dreaming about. Sadly, there are people out there just waiting for you to be so carefree.
As you’ll soon discover, college, though abounding in fun and exciting new experiences, can be quite expensive. When the need for multiple jobs hits and you’re still wanting to hang out with your friends, you might be tempted to get a credit card. Beware, things are not what they seem!
Credit cards seem super cool. The concept of free money and then low monthly payments is hugely appealing. However, your parents probably taught you something right, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! While credit card companies are no longer welcome on campus for recruiting purposes, there are people out there setting up bogus booths to steal your information.
It might seem far-fetched, but identity theft needs to be a real concern. Over 30% of identity thefts are against people under 30! That’s you! Don’t let them take advantage of your trusting nature. Learn how to protect yourself.
Know Their Tricks
Some identity thieves are garbage pickers. Yes, they will dumpster dive for those trash-bound credit card applications. Some companies send you pre-activated plastic just hoping you’ll call the number on the back. However, if you throw that card away you are letting a potential wannabe assume your credit and destroy your score.
If they are able to gain access to your accounts via old bills or other means, it’s imperative that you become proactive. Don’t just glance at your bills, take the time to go over them line by line. Thieves will take small amounts at a time so that they have access for extended periods.
Wait, There’s more
As if credit card scammers and identity thieves don’t give you enough to consider when trying to balance a precariously miniscule budget, there are other things to be on the lookout for. These individuals are only after one thing, your money!
Grants and Scholarships
Free money in the form of grants and scholarships are every college student’s dream. Certainly most who attend college applied for at least one, if not several of these options. So, it’s only natural when a letter offering you a large sum arrives in your mailbox, it’s got your attention.
If this letter asks you to provide personal information as well as an application fee, don’t do it. There are people out there creating fictitious grant and scholarship letters and forms targeting you! Once they have your application fee, they’re on to the next victim.
It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid all odd check depositing requests. There are people who will take advantage of your roommate needed ads. They’ll send you a check to hold their position and then request you return whatever amount isn’t needed. You’ll soon discover their check was worthless while yours gets cashed.
If anyone approaches you wanting to split a check with you, run screaming. They are also trying to take you for a ride on the lose-your-money train. Don’t respond to any crazy out-of-the-country emails about check cashing either!
You Haven’t Been Busted
It’s common knowledge that college kids like music and movies. People generally expect that at some point a college student is going to pirate some of either or both. That knowledge provokes thieves to send you official looking documents warning you that you’ve been caught pirating. They threaten you with jail time and fines. The catch is that if you’ll send them a payment then you can settle the dispute without further hassle.
Even if you’ve illegally copied the latest Miley Cyrus CD, or Lady Gaga album, or dare we say it, Justin Bieber, chances are no one knows! Don’t send anyone any money without doing some serious research to validate their claims and existence first. Keep your checks for groceries and rent.
Keep Other People Safe Too
If you do become the unfortunate victim of a scammer, do your part. Help keep other people from following in your footsteps.
There are several agencies who dedicate all their energies to fraud prevention. Let them know about the scam you’ve encountered.
- If you’ve encountered credit card scams, contact eConsumerServices. They are a consumer protection agency that helps cardholders get their money back after credit card scams.
- Complaints against a specific business should be directed to the Better Business Bureau. The BBB acts as a mediator, but they don’t handle criminal litigation.
- While the Federal Trade Commission won’t be able to handle individual cases, they will compile the information to help prevent widespread scams and criminal activity.
- Another organization that would be interested in learning about your scam is the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The IC3 is a joint effort with the FBI, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Financing your college education is challenging enough. Don’t make the process more difficult than it needs to be—stay away from scams! Don’t let a credit card scam turn you into a victim.