Helping Students Avoid Scams
Students are smart. They've worked hard enough to get into college and they're diligently working on their degrees. That doesn't mean they can't fall victim to a crafty scam designed to separate a student from his money. HSU's University Police Department (UPD) reports that scams against students are fairly uncommon, but that doesn't mean students shouldn't be vigilant against potential fraud. Here's a look at some of the scams most likely to target students and what you and your student can do to stop them.
Student Identity Theft: According to Scambusters.org, identity theft is the No. 1 scam affecting college students. Students spend a lot of time on the Internet making them prime targets for identity thieves. ID theft happens everywhere, from Facebook to official-looking emails. To arm your student against these scams, check out, Scambusters' free College Student's Guide to Identity Theft. The Better Business Bureau also has a guide to help college students avoid identity theft. HSU's own UPD urges victims of identity theft to immediately file a police report and to check your credit ratings with the three main reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
Dodgy Scholarships: There are literally hundreds of thousands of scholarships available for students, so it can be hard to know where to start your search. There are lots of services on the Internet that will conduct a scholarship search for a fee. While there's nothing illegal about this, it's just unnecessary to pay for something that's offered for free.
First and foremost, students should begin by filing the FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Then, once a student has an HSU username and password, he or she can access HSU's Scholarship Tracking and Review Service, or STARS, which streamlines scholarship applications by putting all the information in one place. The system is also interactive. If an application requires videos, research projects or letters or recommendation, students can upload them directly to STARS.
Furthermore HSU's own Talent Search office has issued suggestions for avoiding bogus scholarships. First, never give a credit card or account number for any reason. Also be on the lookout for key words that might indicate a scam. These include: The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back!; You have been selected by a national foundation!; or You're a finalist! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Term Papers & Cheating Supplies: The Internet has opened up new doors for black market academic materials. Term papers, lecture notes, and even complete tests can be shared across the globe in seconds. Increasingly, colleges like Humboldt State are turning to software to identify students using pilfered or plagiarized work. And the penalties for cheating can be serious—anywhere from failing the course to expulsion from the California State University system.
Phony Employment: Employment scams can be particularly effective on college students. They are often looking for something that offers an alternative schedule to allow time for classes and studying. The main thing to be wary of is any employer that charges for training, accreditation, or materials supposedly needed for the job. Just don't do it. There are better ways to find a job to help pay for college, starting with the HSU Career Center.
Of course, creative people have come up with all sorts of other scams. This list is just a start. Two of the most important things to remember are to always do your research and never agree to an electronic money transfer with someone you don't feel comfortable with.