As the fall semester starts for most college students, we must remind students to beware of targeted scams. Recently, a news article in USA Today highlighted a scam where students were receiving calls from someone claiming to be a college official and threatening the students with classes being dropped if they did not pay an outstanding debt with the school. In this scam, the caller attempted to express the urgency and asking the student for a debit/credit card over the phone to clear the debt immediately. I cannot imagine any college doing business like this so please if you receive any call where someone is requesting money immediately over the phone, just hang up and call the school administration office directly. My advice: Hang up if anyone calls you demanding money or else.
Sadly, with the age of smartphones and selfies, college students need to be concerned about people who may take photos or videos of them in compromising positions (i.e., too much alcohol, being rude, etc.) and then use that against them in a blackmail situation. My advice: If you are at risk of being filmed, ask yourself whether you would want your family or future employer seeing whatever you are doing and if the answer is NO, then stop.
Be Careful with Personal Information
Another area of concern for college students would be completing any applications on campus for non-school related forms that require your social security number and birthdate. If you do not know where that form is going, then think twice about who you are handing your information to when you complete the form. Remember, identity thieves will try anything to get your information. My advice: Don’t respond to anyone that is soliciting you but instead go directly to the source (i.e., bank, contest promoter) for that information.
These thieves do not just limit themselves to having you feel out applications on campus but some design social media accounts to look official and make you believe you are handing over your information to a legitimate source. The bottom line is you should NEVER hand over any of your personally identifying information to anyone unless it is a confirmed source that you reached out to instead. My advice: Protect your personal information at all times.
Advice to Parents
Prepare your college students with the tools to protect themselves from scammers and identity thieves. Teach your children to monitor their credit by pulling their credit reports annually through annualcreditreport.com not just to review their credit but to look for potential identity compromises such as wrong addresses or inquiries that they did not make on their credit reports.