Two New Schemes Target Campuses, Former Students
Campuses nationwide are bustling again, as students have returned to begin—or resume—their collegiate studies. Though many college students are too busy to worry about fraud, they are among the most vulnerable to identity theft. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers simple steps students can take to protect themselves from identity theft on campus, and warns of two new schemes targeting students and former students.
Studies have shown that college students are among the most-targeted group for identity theft and also the least likely to detect identity fraud themselves. The 2015 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy and Research revealed that 22 percent of college students were notified that they were a victim of identity fraud either by a debt collector or when they were denied credit, three times higher than average fraud victims.
BBB recommends that college students take the following steps to keep their identity secure on campus:
- Have sensitive mail sent to a permanent address such as your parents’ home or a PO Box. School mailboxes are not always secure and can often be easily accessed in a dorm or shared apartment.
- Store important documents under lock and key, such as a filing cabinet or personal safe. This includes your Social Security card, passport and bank and credit card statements. Shred paper documents that have sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them into the garbage. Also, be sure to shred unwanted credit card offers.
- Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone, even if they’re your roommate or a close friend. And just say no if a friend asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing for goods like a TV or new computer.
- Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software. Always install any updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software which help keep your computer safe from online identity thieves.
- Check your credit or debit card statements closely for any suspicious activity. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
- When shopping on unfamiliar websites, always research the company for free at bbb.org.
- Check your credit report at least once a year with all three reporting bureaus for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
New Scams Targeting Students
In addition to these tips, BBB also wants to make college students aware of two newer schemes targeting them. One involves calls people are receiving claiming unpaid taxes are owed on college tuition. In some cases, the callers have detailed information on potential victims. BBB reminds students—former and current—that tuition fees are not taxed by the government.
BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota also recently received a report from a former student who received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the government. The caller recited detailed personal information they had gathered through unknown means, asking the recipient to confirm the information—including the former student’s home address, county, and the university they had attended. After confirming that all of the information was correct, the scam artist claimed a “one-time student fee of $1,600 was owed.” However, such fees are non-existent.
Current and former students who receive such calls are encouraged to end the conversation as quickly as possible and not confirm or deny any information callers might have gathered, regardless of its accuracy. Fraudulent calls can be reported at ftc.gov and through BBB Scam Tracker.
The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at bbb.org or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.