Scams Targeting College and Graduate Students

Students Are Losing Their Tuitions & Savings For Their Education

A SCARS Insight

Student-Targetted Scams Steal Billions From Young Adults And Their Family

Watch Out For Any Social Media Advertising Or People That Want To Help Students

Every year college students will be starting a new chapter in their lives.  With this new chapter comes responsibility and the freedom to make choices on their own.

This is a warning to college or university students and their parents worldwide to be on the lookout for potential scams that are targeting these young adults and stealing their futures.

What To Watch For?

Here are some of the Student-Targetted Scams to look out for:

  • Student Financial Service Scam: There are many types of scams that pose as legitimate offers for scholarships, grants, and financial aid services.  The student is contacted by telephone, mail, social media, or email with a great offer but is asked to provide personal information or pay upfront fees in order to proceed.  These fees are usually paid by gift card, bank wire transfer, or money transfer service.
  • The Unpaid Tuition Scam: The scammer contacts the student or the parents claiming that the tuition bill has been unpaid and that payment needs to be made immediately so that it does not affect the student’s enrollment.  Before you run off and make a payment, call the school’s financial aid or services office and verify if this is true.  The school would most likely send a paper bill before calling and demanding immediate payment. These also target grandparents, claiming that the parents have not paid and the grandparent needs to.
  • Online Income Scam: Scammers prey on college students promising them a job online and ways for them to make quick and easy money.  The company will either ask the students for money upfront or send them a check for their work and ask them to send a portion back to the company. These checks are fake and will result in fees and potentially other charges.
  • Fake Student Tax Scam: First, there is no such thing, but scammers will try to convince you of this!
  • Buying Books Online Scam: Scam artists set up fake websites and offer great deals on expensive textbooks only to never deliver the textbook and leaving the victims out of money as well as not getting the textbook they ordered.
  • Housing/Roommate/Rental Scam: The scammers normally pose as an individual selling or renting a property or as a property management business conducting the transaction on behalf of a client who is the alleged owner of the property.  Potential renters are then solicited for money in exchange for promises that the homes will be shown to them or rented to them upon completion of their payment. Then, once the payment is received, the prospective buyer or tenant eventually realizes that there is in fact either no home for sale or that the property is in fact occupied.

More Information About Student-Targetted Scams

Back-to-school season means a flurry of shopping — and a flurry of scams.

Scammers know that students and their parents are caught up in a frenzy of preparations and errands and are, therefore, more likely to fall victim to scammer schemes. Be sure to look out for these scams targeting college students and parents of private school students that tend to peak during the summer before the start of the school year and before the beginning of each new semester.

The Tuition Fee Scam

How it works: A college student, or the parent of a private school student, receives a phone call from a caller introducing themself as a secretary or administrator at their school, or their child’s school. The caller claims the student or parent owes tuition fees and will not be allowed to return to school for the coming semester unless the fees are paid. They may explain that a tuition check has bounced or that a credit card payment didn’t clear. Alternatively, the caller claims the student’s grant or scholarship was abruptly canceled and the student is now being billed for the full tuition fee.

The caller insists on being paid the outstanding sum immediately or the student will lose their spot in the school. The “secretary” or “administrator” provides the victim with detailed information for wiring money or dropping off the cash at a private address. Of course, once the money is sent, it will never be seen again.

Protect Against The Tuition Fee Scam: This scam is easy to spot because most schools will not insist on immediate payment, or payment through a wire transfer, money transfer, or especially not gift cards. If you receive a call like the one described above, ask the caller detailed questions about the school, their position, and the money owed. Ask for their office phone and extension – real schools have landlines. If it’s a scam, the caller will not be able to answer your questions. You can also explain that you need to see the actual bill before making any payments and that you’d like to pick up the bill yourself from the school. Finally, you can insist on calling the school directly to make the payment – if the caller becomes insistent or threatening just hang up!

The Student Tax Scam

How it works: Someone allegedly representing the IRS calls a college student at a public university and claims they neglected to pay their student tax. The caller explains that the student tax helps fund the university and that failure to pay this tax can result in disqualification from class and possible imprisonment. They will insist on immediate payment via prepaid gift card or wire transfer or other money transfer services. They may even demand access to your bank account or debit card number.

Protect Against The Student Tax Scam: You can spot this scam by remembering that the IRS will always first contact people by mail. Also, the IRS won’t insist on being paid through a gift card or other money transfer.

The Fake Scholarship Scam

How it works: A scammer reaches out to a college student telling them they’ve been guaranteed approval for a scholarship or grant. The only catch is that the student must pay a hefty fee to receive it (for processing or some other invented reason). These scholarships are bogus and, if the victim falls for the scam, they will never see that money again.

In a similar scam, a victim is instructed to pay a fee to a company that will allegedly file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in their name. Of course, no FAFSA form will ever be filed, and the money paid for this “service” will go directly into the scammer’s pockets. And the information that you gave them will allow the scammer to steal your identity.

Protect Against The Fake Scholarship Scam: Student scholarships and grants are designed to help students and their parents pay for education; they don’t charge for eligibility. If an alleged scholarship claims to charge a fee before granting approval, it is most certainly a scam. Also, no company will guarantee approval for a scholarship or grant; there is always a vetting process of some kind before eligibility is determined. Finally, there is no reason to pay to have a FAFSA form filed; it can be completed easily online here at  For additional help, college students can contact the financial aid office at their university.

Imposter Scams

How it works: An imposter scam is when a scammer pretends to be someone else in order to win over the victim’s trust and convince them to send money. In the case of college students, a student may receive a call from someone claiming to be a school official warning of a late tuition payment or other money owed. The victim is ordered to pay immediately over the phone or suffer dire consequences, such as being dropped from all classes.

To make the scam seem even more realistic, the scammer may ‘spoof’ the incoming call, making it look like the call originated from a number the victim recognizes.

Protect Against Imposter Scams: Hang up the phone immediately if you get a call involving money. Instead, contact the entity that the caller claimed to be with, for example, your school’s Office of Student and Financial Services.

Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

How it works: Not all offers to help to pay down student loans are real. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that they shut down a scam that bilked student loan borrowers out of $23M.

According to reports, the scammers lured their victims using false promises to pay down student loan debt and lower monthly payments. All the while, the thieves were diverting payments to their own accounts, and in some cases, they had even changed the borrower’s contact information on US Department of Education websites in order to limit the victim’s contact with the legitimate federal loan servicers. Some borrowers didn’t realize for years that their student loans weren’t being repaid. This is also a way the scammers steal student’s identities.

Protect Against Student Loan Debt Relief Scams: Visiting the US Department of Education website at if you have federal student loans. If you have private loans, it is advised to speak directly with your loan servicer. For more information, visit

Misleading Credit Card Offer Scams

How it works: College students are particularly susceptible to credit card scams, which could range from a legitimate credit card that has unfavorable terms, fees, or interest rates to the worst cases of a credit card solicitation that is actually a veiled attempt at identity theft.

Protect Against Misleading Credit Card Offer Scams: Doing your own research if you need a credit card, instead of responding to a solicitation.

Public Wi-Fi Scams

How it works: College students can log a lot of time on public Wi-Fi networks. Unfortunately, using public Wi-Fi can also make students susceptible to fraud.

Hackers may exploit security flaws on a public Wi-Fi router and scan data that passes back and forth between the router and the individual’s computer, tablet, or phone. If, for example, a user logs on to a banking website or shops online while on a public network, personal or financial information entered can be at risk of exposure.

Protect Against Public Wi-Fi Scams: Avoid logging on to banking or other sensitive sites while on public Wi-Fi networks and, if possible, don’t visit any website on public Wi-Fi that requires you to enter your password.

Social Media Scams

How it works: Young people are notorious social media junkies. Seventy-eight percent of 18- to 24-year-olds use Snapchat, 71 percent use Instagram, and close to half use Twitter.

Unfortunately, scammers may be lurking on social media platforms, even on pages that seem to belong to legitimate organizations. One such tactic involves scammers setting up fake pages for universities and reaching out to college students with the goal of collecting email addresses, which could result in an inbox full of spam or even identity theft.

Protect Against Social Media Scams: Only adding friends you actually know, limiting the amount of information you post online, and being cautious of invitations to “like” pages.

Behavior Blackmail Scams

How it works: Do an internet search for college students who have been the victim of online blackmail in one way or another, and you will probably be disturbed by the results. College students are known for their behavior and a new online friend can have access to what they are doing. Some of it may be worthy of balckmail.

All the world’s a stage these days, and with smartphones being so prolific someone could be captured on video or photographed without their knowledge or consent. In some cases, those images may fall into the wrong hands.

Protect Against Blackmail Scams: Thinking twice before you do anything at college that you wouldn’t want your family members or employer to see. After all, they may end up seeing it anyway.

Scammers are always out in full force before the start of the school year. Don’t let them steal your education! Stay alert and stay safe.

Scams Can Be Prevented

Here Are Some Tips To Remember:

  • Be sure to speak with someone from your school before making payments on a supposed unpaid bill or offering information on a loan, grant, scholarship that is being offered.
  • Completing financial aid forms, especially a U.S. FASFA form, does not cost anything to fill out.
  • Research thoroughly into any business before providing personal financial information or credit card information. Make sure that the website is a secure website (https:// not http://).
  • Check that any business is registered with their state – do a corporations search on the State Government website.
  • Do research, talk to friends/family and school officials to learn more about how to protect yourself or your loved one from a scam.
  • Never give your personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.
  • If you believe you have been a victim of a scam, report it to your local police immediately, contact your bank or credit card company, and file a complaint with your local state prosecutor’s officce or national police if you do not live in the U.S. Also your university may be able to provide additional guidance.

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to to learn how

U.S. FTC at and SCARS at
Visit to learn more!