Consumer Alert: College, cash, and crooks. How to avoid falling victim

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This consumer alert looks at college, cash and crooks. College campuses will be full of new arrivals in just a matter of weeks. And all those young adults provide fertile ground for scammers. According to the better business bureau, 18 to 24-year-olds are prime targets for scammers.

For example, think about all the school-related bills you pay in college. So you may not be suspicious when you get an email from “The Financial Department” asking for your credit card information to pay another bill. That’s a common scam. Don’t fall for it. Call the school’s financial department directly.

The Better Business Bureau says college students are so often targeted because they’re always on the internet and are less likely to be wary.

"There are not a lot of trust issues so I think that’s what scammers are preying on, is the ability to reach them and reach them quickly,” said Melanie McGovern, Communications Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western New York. “They [college students] make that decision simply by scrolling through their phone. And that’s where we see a lot of the issues happen especially with online purchase scams. The majority of online purchase scams happen for the 18 to 24-year-old demographic."

Here are some of the most common scams college students fall victim to:

• On-line purchase scams. Crooks usually target college kids through social media, and either steal their money for a product that never arrives or steal their credit card information.
• The “financial department” fake email that I referenced above.
• The apartment scam. The crooks post an apartment listing that’s too good to be true. They ask for a deposit, and you lose your money. Or they make you fill out an application, and they steal your identity.
• Scholarship or grant scams. You should never have to send money to apply for a scholarship or grant.

Lastly, this isn’t a scam but it’s really important. In college, you’ll be flooded with credit card offers. Talk to your folks before you ever apply for a credit card. That Friday night pizza is not worth it if you’re paying 24 percent interest. So many students fall into the credit card trap and in no time rack up a boatload of debt.

CNBC has something that, as the mother of a college kid, i have found invaluable. It’s a guide to helping your college students develop a budget. Click here for the guide.