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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB Tip of the Week: Scammers take advantage of those going to college

By Tyler Russell BBB Northwest and Pacific

During August, millions of students will pack their bags and head to college for the first time or be continuing their studies. So many of these first-time students will face challenges on their own, which may include those pesky scammers attempting to prey on their finances. Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific wants to make students and their parents aware of scams from our 2018 Risk Report that target this specific demographic and what these young adults can do to avoid them.

So many have to work in college. Be on the watch for employment scams. Looking for a job can be a daunting and long process. It is easy for students to get excited when they receive unsolicited job offers mentioning “no experience necessary,” “work from home” or a “high pay.” However, these offers are almost always too good to be true. Be careful and know what you’re getting into. If asked for any personal or banking information and offered a job on the spot, exercise caution and always visit to determine an employer’s trustworthiness.

Understand how checks work and avoid fake-check scams. The 2018 BBB Risk Report found the largest group of victims falling for fake-check frauds were in their early 20s. The losses keep adding up, as so many younger consumers are not used to this payment method. A common strategy scammers use is to overpay for a product or service with a check. The scammer will then tell the student to send them the difference by wire transfer, gift cards or in a magazine. When depositing a check from an unknown entity, refrain from spending until the check has been verified. Be immediately suspicious of overpayments and never wire or send money to someone you do not know.

Buying online can be easy but be careful. This type of scam ranked No. 3 on the 2018 Risk Report. The ease and impulse to go online and find a much-wanted book or school supplies offered at a huge discount can be appealing. A student will place an order through the website but never receive the purchased items. Savvy student shoppers should look for the “s” at the end of “https” to verify a site’s security, and research all businesses at prior to making a purchase.

You can’t choose your family. However, you can choose your roommates. Scams such as these show up on online classified websites. There are many variations of the roommate scam, one of which is a fake “roommate’s” offer to provide rent upfront. The payment requested is a check or money order, despite living out of town. This is like the fake check scam. A student will receive a payment that is higher than required and is then asked to cash the check and wire back the difference. The hook and bait are swallowed, and the original check or money order will bounce, and the victim will be held responsible for any money transferred. Meet with your potential roommates in person and never wire money to a stranger.

A second form of rental scam may occur when students try to find housing off campus. In some cases, rental properties posted online are not real. Making a visit to the rental before making any deposits, or using a reputable rental company, can help avoid potential fraud.

Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific wants you to have the best time in your college experience. With these better practices in your financial toolkit, you will be able to avoid these types of scams, share this information with your friends and family, and maybe even save someone from being scammed. For more information and to do your research on businesses in your area visit