By Grace Malone
The cellphone rings. It’s a Washington D.C. number, or so the caller says.
“This is the federal government. You have just been selected to receive a government grant of $7,000. To receive this money, send in $200 to cover taxes, and we will send your grant to you in cash or directly to your account.”
This is just one recent example of the multiple types of scams that target college students via phone, email, text and internet.
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released the 2012 Internet Crime Report—a summary of reported fraudulent activity, including data and statistics. In 2012, the IC3 received and processed 289,874 complaints, averaging more than 24,000 complaints per month. The losses reported to IC3 rose 8.3 percent over the previous year, according to fbi.gov concerning the national scam activity that occurred last year.
According to a survey, 8 out of 20 Tyler Junior College students replied “yes” to receiving some sort of scam before, whether it be my phone call, email, ad or text. Fortunately, 19 out of those 20 turned down the offers and never had to pay the price.
“They said I won like a Walmart gift card, and… they wanted my debit card number…” said Sociology major Julia Bridges.
She said they were going to put the $1,000 on her card.
“I didn’t go through with it,” said Bridges.
But just how can college students sniff out whether they are being scammed or not?
“If somebody calls you to say that you won a sweepstakes, or a grant, or a scholarship and you didn’t apply for one, that’s a red flag,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, president and CEO of the Tyler Better Business Bureau (BBB).
“The second thing is… if you’ve won something, should you have to pay anything? Why can’t they just take that off the top?”
Those with savings accounts and credit need to check with those companies often to make sure that nothing no one has gotten ahold of their information, and has stolen money or ruined their credit.
“I’ve had a friend who, she went to buy her first car and never checked her anything (credit or savings account), and someone had stolen her identity in middle school,” said Kaylen Burgess, communications assistant at the BBB. “… And it was a long process. She wasn’t able to buy the car in her name… she had this, sort of, doubt for well-over a year until they were able to put the car in her name, because the records dated so (far) back that they couldn’t pin-point who the person was.”
Those with savings accounts and credit need to check with their companies often to make sure that no one has gotten ahold of their information, and has stolen their money or ruined their credit.
“Scammers know that in order to get what they want, they have to do it fast.
“They use high-pressure tactics,” Mills said.
This is why they try to evoke emotion. Good judgment is impaired when the emotions are stirred.
“They are either going to do something that makes you excited and want to respond, like you won this or that,” said Mills, “or they are gonna’ scare you. They’re gonna’ say your ATM card has been disabled,’ or ‘we’ve noticed that there’s been some mysterious charges in your account,’ or something like that that will make you want to respond immediately.”
Also, students should not respond to text messages that appear to be a hoax. Even if the text reads, “Write ‘STOP’ if you wish to no longer receive these messages,” it is a way they can keep your name and number on a list to call.
If you receive a text message which you believe to be spam, you can forward that text message to “7726,” said Mills “…What will happen is, you will get a reply from your phone provider saying, ‘Thanks for letting us know,’ and then it will ask you for the phone number that sent you that text message, and then it will block that number.”
Wiring money or paying in cash to a business that is not familiar can be risky.
“If they (scammers) ask for cash or for you to wire money, that’s a huge red flag as well,” Mills said. “Because if you wire money to somebody (there is a) very, very little chance that we can get that reversed. Once you wire money, it’s pretty much gone. Rarely can we get that back.”
Mills has dealt with situations when young adults had already bought into the scam.
The last call Mills got regarding someone being scammed out of money was an 18-year-old girl. She had seen an ad online about doing a “Secret Shopper” job. The website said they would give her $3,000, but she would first have to send in $1,300 . They sent her the check, so she borrowed $1,300 from her grandmother and then wired it to them. The $3,000 check bounced. She never got her money back.
“(We) couldn’t get it back,” Mills said. “It was too late.”
When things as important as identity and money are concerned, it’s better to be overly-cautious and confidential with personal information.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where you can’t trust everyone, and you would be surprised at the places where you would find someone who would pick up your wallet and take your information,” said Burgess, “so never be too trusting. Always kind of be on alert, and you will be safer that way.”