This year’s college graduates are ready for what’s next. Grads may be starting new jobs or relocating to a new city and looking for a place to rent. Graduation often means new financial responsibilities including beginning payments on student loan debt. While grads are navigating life’s new changes, scammers are trying to rip them off.
The following tips can help young people avoid common student debt scams.
Know the terms of your student loans.
One of the most common ways scammers target college graduates is with fake loan forgiveness opportunities. You might receive an unsolicited email, phone call, or text announcing that you can qualify for lowered payments through a debt forgiveness program. The email will erroneously claim that to use the company’s services, you have to fill out a form and pay a small fee. Some of these companies are real, but some of them also pitch their services with false claims and incomplete information. Other companies are fake and only trying to get their hands on your personal information and money.
Scammers may also contact college grads regarding student loan repayment offers surrounding the response to the pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) is continuing emergency relief flexibilities through September 30, 2021. Scammers may claim that to take advantage of the program, you need to complete a form or pay a fee. In reality, you may not need to do this, so check your facts before giving anyone your information.
Understanding the ins and outs of your student loan – what kind of interest you owe, when you need to start paying (in most cases, you won’t need to make a payment until six months after you’ve graduated), and for how long you’ll be expected to make payments – will protect you from many of these scams. If you are unsure how the CARES Act affects your student loan, find out by visiting official government websites, such as ed.gov and studentaid.gov.
Be wary of unsolicited messages about unpaid tuition.
Some con artists contact graduates or their parents claiming some of their tuition was left unpaid. If it isn’t paid immediately, they’ll falsely claim the graduate’s degree will be revoked. Scammers may ask you to send money via wire transfer or with prepaid debit cards.
Whether you’re contacted by phone, email, or text, be wary of any unsolicited contacts. If you aren’t sure a message is legitimate, do some research to verify the person’s claims. Ask to contact them later. Then, investigate by looking up information on the official website or calling your school’s bursar’s office. Never give in to pressure to make a decision right away.
Do research before accepting job interviews or jobs.
Scammers may offer recent graduates high-paying entry-level jobs. Con artists are skilled at drawing new grads in by promoting unrealistic wages for generically labeled job positions, such as virtual assistant or customer service rep. They may ask for your personal information, including your bank account and SSN, claiming they need the info to set up direct deposit or file taxes. In other cases, scammers require you to pay for training. In yet another version, you may be accidentally overpaid with a fake check and asked to send back the extra funds. Don’t fall for any of this!
Research any company before you complete an application or even agree to a job interview. Make sure the company has legitimate contact information and the position is posted on their corporate website. Scammers often steal the names of real companies for their phony job postings.
Watch out for rental scams.
Have you found a gorgeous apartment in a trendy neighborhood at an affordable price? There’s a good chance it’s a scam. According to a recent survey by Apartment List, 43 percent of people looking for a rental online have encountered a bogus listing.
In many cases, scammers simply copy the photo and description of a real property. Then, they post it online with their own contact information and try to get a deposit and first month’s rent from the target.
If you’re looking to rent an apartment or home, find out how much other rental properties in the area cost before you sign a lease. Scammers often lure victims by promising low rents, extra amenities, and a great location. If the price seems much better than what is offered elsewhere, it may be a scam.
Be sure to tour the apartment or house in person. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t personally seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm it’s what was advertised. Finally, read lease agreement documents before you sign. Don’t be embarrassed to consult with friends or family members who may be more knowledgeable on the subject if you have doubts or questions.
Please report scams.
As we move through this pandemic and spend even more time online shopping and socializing, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep your information and family safe. Interestingly, young people and seniors are less likely to report fraudulent activity because they feel a sense of shame for having been scammed. If you encounter scams or frauds online or in the real world, please let the BBB know through the Scam Tracker at BBB.org so we can help protect consumers of all ages.