New college grads: Watch out for these scams
This year’s class of college graduates are getting ready to start their new lives. It’s a big transition that includes several important changes. Grads may be moving to a new city, finding a new place to live, or searching for a new job. Graduation also often means new financial responsibilities, such as starting payments on student loans.
As college graduates are navigating many life changes, scammers are eager to take advantage of their inexperience.
Susan Bach, northeast Wisconsin regional director for the Better Business Bureau joined NewsChannel 7 at 4 on Wednesday to talk about the tips that can help new grads avoid common scams.
One is to know the terms of your student loans. Perhaps one of the most common ways scammers target college graduates is with fake loan forgiveness opportunities. You may receive an unsolicited email, phone call or text message stating that you can qualify for lowered payments through a debt forgiveness program. To use the company’s services, just fill out a form and pay a fee. Some of these companies are real, but they pitch their services with false claims and incomplete information. Other companies are fakes, only hoping to get their hands on your personal information and money.
Scammers may also contact college grads regarding student loan repayment hiatus that's a response to COVID-19. The CARES Act passed by Congress is pausing student loan repayments through Sept. 30, 2020. Scammers may claim that to take advantage of the program, you need to complete a form or pay a fee. In reality, your student loan payments are automatically paused.
Understanding the ins and outs of your student loan - what kind of interest you owe, when you need to start paying and for how long you’ll be expected to make payments - will protect you from these scams. If you are unsure how the CARES Act affects your student loan, find out on official government websites, such as ed.gov and studentaid.gov.
Another piece of advice is to 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, the graduate’s degree will be revoked. Scammers may ask you to send money via wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.
Whether you are contacted by phone, email, or text message, be wary of anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Government agencies, as well as most higher education facilities, will contact you by mail initially. If you aren’t sure if 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. Don’t give in to pressure to make a decision right away.
Finally, Bach warned about scammers who may offer recent graduates high paying, easy, entry-level jobs. Con artists are skilled at drawing new grads in by promoting unrealistic wages for generally labeled job positions, such as “virtual assistant” or “customer service rep.” They may ask for your personal information, including your bank account and Social Security number, claiming they need it 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.
If you are considering a job with a company you aren’t familiar with, do some research before you complete an application or agree to an 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.
You can read more about scams targeting current college students and employment scams, by visiting bbb.org