Top 5 Scams Targeting College Students

Paula Fleming (Photo courtesy: BBB website)
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College brings new challenges and opportunities, but it may also open the door to scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting young adults. Many students might not recognize when they come across a scam. Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI, & VT (BBB) is warning the community of the top five scams affecting students.

Paula Fleming (Photo courtesy: BBB website)

“There’s a reason so many college students fall victim to these scams, and it may surprise them to know that scammers use many of the same techniques as legitimate professionals,” said Paula Fleming, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer for the local BBB. “Students need to be aware of the scams that directly target them.”

According to BBB Scam Tracker, online purchases were the top scam affecting college students in 2016, with 2,341 total scams reported in the U.S. and Canada. The list was compiled based on more than 7,077 scam reports filed by consumers on

BBB offers tips for college students on how to avoid the most common scams:

Online Purchases

Online shopping is a popular way for students to shop for college necessities, but it’s also a popular way for scammers to steal personal information. Scammers create websites that claim to sell items that often look legitimate to the average shopper, but instead collect the victim’s information and vanish from contact.

Tips to avoid these scams:

Check out the business at to look up BBB Customer Reviews and complaints.

Be sure the site is secure and only pay with a credit card when shopping online.

Read over the website’s Privacy Policy to make sure your information is safe.


Students tend to search for part-time jobs on recruiting sites that allow them to work from their computer while still enrolled in school. While this new trend is a common tactic for job-seekers, BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of fake job offers sent to applicants’ emails. These scammers claim to be responding to a submitted application or have viewed a resume on an online recruiting site.

Tips to avoid these scams:

Check if the contact information in the email matches that on the actual website and online recruiting page.

Never pay up-front fees for promises of guaranteed income.

Be cautious if you sense urgency or have received the same inquiry multiple times.

Counterfeit Products

Counterfeit products are common at pop-up stores and markets — places where scammers can sell items that claim to be a certain brand without fear of getting caught. Shopping for brand-name products at these locations sounds like a better deal than purchasing from a reputable website or store, however it’s only cheaper because it’s manufactured differently, which could result in faulty products.

Tips to avoid these scams:

Search the BBB Accredited Business Directory for reliable shops.

Only shop on secure websites that include “https” and the lock symbol in the URL.

Only use a credit card when shopping online.

Fake Checks

Fake check scams often involve a check issuer “accidentally” sending a check with a higher amount of money than they actually owe you. They will ask you to deposit the check and then wire the difference back to them. The catch is that the check they sent you was a fake, but it takes days or even weeks for the check to bounce. By then, you’ve wired money over to the scammer that you can’t get back and still haven’t received the money owed to you.

Tips to avoid these scams:

Be wary of checks received from unknown individuals.

Do not accept overpayments.

Confirm that the check has cleared before you withdraw cash

Tech Support

Many students use a laptop and scammers are aware of this. A popular scam appears as a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from a reputable tech support source such as Microsoft or Apple, alerting you to a problem or security breach. To fix the “problem” you must give remote access to the caller. Don’t be fooled by this – THEY are the security breach. Once given access, they can install malware on your computer and steal personal information.

Tips to avoid these scams:

Verify a business’s contact information at or visit the official website.

Never provide passwords over the phone.

Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller.


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