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For college students, the months of August and September are pretty chaotic. Between packing, shopping, saying sappy goodbyes to friends, and scrambling to make a few more bucks, these last few weeks of freedom are all about checking the next thing off a to-do list. It’s during times like these that scammers love to prey.

Recent Better Business Bureau research shows millennials are more likely to get scammed than any other generation. This stems from an optimism bias, the belief that everyone else is more vulnerable than oneself. Here are just a few things to look out for during the back-to-school frenzy:

  • The all too common IRS phone scam has a new variant that’s targeting college students, claiming they owe a “federal student tax.” There’s no such thing, and the IRS won’t call demanding payments.
  • “Congrats!! You just won a $500 back-to-school shopping spree!” is a pop-up or ad many millennials have seen somewhere online, on social media, or in their emails. Just remember most companies don’t market like this, and clicking on a pop-up ad could lead to more popping up in the future, or worse, a virus. A simple internet search of the company and deal will confirm its legitimacy.
  • Whenever accessing Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, double- and triple-check it’s the official site. Imposter sites float around online to trick college students into giving private tax and security information. Third party vendors frequently advertise the ability to get a “discount” on tuition, specifically targeting international students. Sending large sums of money to an unknown company is never a good idea, especially when in another country. FAFSA has a list of similar scams, so make sure to read up on those.
  • Back-to-school shopping quickly becomes a whirlwind of information, supplies, and sales. Do your research. If that online coupon for a free Macbook is located on a site you can’t find any details about, it’s probably not real. For more shopping safety tips, check out the Better Business Bureau’s guide.
  • Craigslist and other online trading post sites are very popular amongst students, but also with scammers. Be smart when purchasing something froma stranger online. More information on online auctions and trading can be found in our Online Shopping blog.

There are a lot of scams involving apartment renting. It’s always strongly encouraged to visit the apartment and read all the terms before signing a lease agreement, but sometimes time crunches and distance get in the way. Always look at the reviews of the realtors and landlords, and be hesitant when asked for wire transfers or strictly email communication. The Better Business Bureau has a more on apartment rental scams they’ve come across that’s worth a read.

It’s important to stay calm during back-to-school stress, and never take anything at face value. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Get through these next few weeks, and have a great—and safe—school year!

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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