BBB Alert: Scammers target returning college students

Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau recommends students take steps to prevent themselves from becoming victims of identity theft.

When college students return to campus, fighting fraud may not be at the top of their list of priorities. Yet, these students will be spending money during the school year for tuition, school supplies, and other necessities. That’s where fraudsters step in.

The Better Business Bureau is warning students and parents about this serious and potentially very costly problem.

“Scammers are taking this opportunity to try to steal some of that money through various schemes and

scams,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “One

tactic is a fake credit card offer, which is especially tempting for students’ first credit card. Some deals could be phony offers designed to access personal information.”

Be sure to research offers directly from credit card companies and banking institutions before applying. Pay

special attention to late fees, yearly fees, and interest rates if you don’t pay your balance.

Another common trick used to get student’s personal information is a phishing email that claims to be from the school’s “Financial Department.” Messages via text or email may appear, instructing the student to click on a link provided in the email and log in with a student username and password. Don’t do it; that could give scammers the username, password, or other personal information while possibly downloading malware onto your device.

The Better Business Bureau recommends students take steps to prevent themselves from becoming victims of identity theft.

  • Send sensitive mail to your permanent home or a post office School mailboxes are not always secure and may be easily accessed in a dorm or apartment.
  • If you get unusual emails or text from anyone in authority at your school demanding information or payment, or even problems with your school account, check it out directly with the office or person sending the message.
  • Important documents should be stored away This includes your Social Security card, passport, and bank and credit card statements. Shred credit card offers and paper documents with sensitive financial information rather than just tossing them out.
  • Never lend your credit or debit card to If your friend wants to borrow your card or asks you to co-sign for a loan or financing, just say “no.”
  • Don’t let anyone “shoulder surf” your personal identification number (PIN) when using an ATM or credit card
  • Review all receipts and statements: Check your credit or debit card statements for suspicious


  • Guard your passwords, and don’t give them out to Use strong passwords; don’t use the same password for all sites.
  • Make sure your computer has up-to-date antivirus and spyware software. Always install updates and patches to your computer’s operating system or browser software, which help keep your computer safe from any new advances by identity thieves online.
  • Be careful when shopping Check out businesses on Avoid doing business with companies you’ve never heard of until you have checked them out. Red flags include not listing their physical address prominently along with their customer service numbers.
  • Check your credit report at least twice a You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Look for any suspicious activity or inaccuracies. You can do this by visiting

If you’ve spotted a scam whether or not you’ve lost money, report it to BBB Scamtracker to help alert others.

Visit or follow them @ChicagoBBB on social media. Look for the BBB seal, The Sign of a Better Business.