As the store aisles fill up with pencils and crayons, scammers are ready to strike. Here are several back-to-school scams and ways to protect yourself…
The student tax scam. In this scam, a crook posing as the IRS calls a college-bound student informing them that they have failed to pay the student tax. If it is not paid immediately, the “agent” says, the student will not be allowed to attend school and may even face jail time.
IRS scams like this one can happen at any time of year, but are especially common before the start of a new school year. Here are three things to know to help you avoid this scam:
- The “student tax” does not exist.
- The IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer through a phone call.
- The IRS will never demand payment through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
Scholarship scams. Another school-related scam that can be more prevalent this time of year is the scholarship scam. The scammer cons students and their parents into paying money for government student loans or financial aid, or promises a scholarship for a fee. Follow these rules to avoid falling for scholarship scams:
- Never pay to apply for a government student loan or financial aid. There is no fee for applying for government aid and there is help available for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms at fafsa.gov.
- There is no way to guarantee a scholarship or grant. If you’re targeted by a company promising to get you approved for either one by paying a small fee, you’re being targeted by a scam.
- There is generally no fee necessary to receive a scholarship. If you are offered a scholarship for a fee, opt out.
School supply giveaways and freebies. Between backpacks, new clothing and loads of supplies, back-to-school shopping can cost a lot. Messages promising a free back-to-school shopping spree can sound too good to be true, unfortunately, too often they are.
Back-to-school giveaway scams will ask the victim to visit a website and provide their email address to claim their prize. The victim will then be rewarded with an endless stream of emails, texts, and robocalls from the company that now has their information and other companies they’ve sold this information to, with no true rewards or prizes in sight. Protecting yourself from a giveaway scam is easy when you remember this simple rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Social media scams. In these scams, victims are targeted through their social media platforms and offered incredible deals or offers on school supply shopping. This can be presented in the form of discounted gift cards at favored stores, expensive technology at bargain prices and more. Of course, these deals are bogus and if the victim clicks on the embedded link, their device will be infected with malware.
Make sure to stay alert and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it’s almost certainly a scam. No, you won’t be scoring an iPad for just $19.99 and you can’t buy a $1000 gift certificate to Hollister for just $250. Ignore all ads like these and, if you can, opt out of receiving them in the future.
Take advantage of your Benefits Plus® checking account with SeaComm as a way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity! Once you’ve upgraded to a Benefits Plus® checking, you will gain access to a variety of identity theft protection services including fraud alerts, identity theft alerts, lost document recovery services, and more. Stop by your local SeaComm branch to upgrade your checking account, today.
For complete information, terms, conditions and exclusions please visit www.benefits-plus.org or call 866-329-7587.
As your credit union, we want to keep you and your finances safe. That’s why we’ve introduced our Fraud Center, which includes valuable resources to help educate and empower our members to protect their assets and identities. Click here to get started.