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Do your research to avoid scholarship scams

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Shawn Maclauchlan

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - College classes are now back in session, and scammers are trying to educate themselves on how to rip off unassuming students.

First, student identity theft. The largest category.

As heavy internet users, young people are particularly vulnerable to identity theft scams. With all the social networking now, scammers have set up phony pages that look like official college pages.  They're harvesting names either for ID theft or to be sold on marketing lists.

Here are a couple of tips to protect your identity online:

  • Don't display your full name in an online profile.
  • Be discreet about where you live.
  • Only shop through reputable online merchants.
  • Avoid email surveys that ask for a lot of personal information.
  • Don't post your picture along with personal information.

Now, another big category... scholarship scams.

There are thousands of legitimate scholarships offers out there. So, it can be hard to know where to start.

There are two main scams to think about:

  • Phony scholarships. These either don't exist or they are so small, they're hardly worth applying for. The aim, again, is to harvest personal details of applicants for id theft or marketing purposes.
  • Charging a fee for scholarship search matching. This isn't illegal but it is unnecessary since the same info is available free online on sites like findtuition.com.

If you're not living at home and you're not living in the dorm, finding a place to live at the right price can be a real headache. There are two key pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Unsuitable or overpriced properties. There are rules rental owners are supposed to follow in maintaining their properties. And they can basically charge what they want. So, research pays off... Check with your school's housing office for options it may have already checked out.
  • Non-existent rentals. This is a big problem in the non-student world too. We're seeing it more and more on craigslist... A crook offering you a house or apartment they don't own, taking your money upfront and then disappearing.

You have to ask a lot of questions and see things inside and out in-person before you pay.

Scambusters says the key to avoiding these rip offs is to realize that there are people out there, including maybe some of your fellow students, just waiting to rip you off... And do your research.

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