HARRISBURG – As more than 500,000 students return to campus at Pennsylvania’s 187 colleges and universities this month, Attorney General Josh Shapiro is issuing a series of tips to help students avoid the kinds of scams and frauds commonly perpetrated on Pennsylvania’s college students, graduates and families.
“As students return to school this fall, I want to make sure they have the resources to avoid getting scammed and losing out financially,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “My Bureau of Consumer Protection is here to protect Pennsylvanians and support young adults as they venture out on their own and take on new responsibilities.”
Attorney General Shapiro said any consumer who believes they have been scammed should call his Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also urged consumers to sign up for free consumer text alerts from the Office of Attorney General by visiting https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/consumer-alerts/.
Here are the scams that Attorney General Shapiro and the Bureau of Consumer Protection are advising Pennsylvania college and graduate students to be on the watch for:
- Student Financial Services: Some financial schemes pose as legitimate offers for scholarships, grants and financial aid. The student is contacted by telephone, mail or email with a great offer — but asked to provide financial information or pay upfront fees to proceed. These fees are usually paid by gift card or money wire. Don’t pay such fees upfront.
- Unpaid Tuition: The scammer contacts the student or parents, claiming a tuition bill has been unpaid and that payment must be made immediately to avoid a negative action on the student’s enrollment. Before making any payment, students should call the school’s financial aid office. The school would most likely send a paper bill before threatening any form of action against the student.
- Online Income: Thieves prey on college students, promising them a job online and ways for them to make quick, easy money. The scammer will ask the students for money or a fee upfront before connecting them to the “job.” Never provide money to obtain a job; it’s a scam.
- Buying Books Online: Typically run through fake websites, these scams offer great deals on expensive textbooks — only to never deliver the textbook or a flawed edition.
- Roommate/Apartment Rental: Scammers pose as individuals selling or renting a property. Consumers are solicited for money upfront in exchange for promises that the homes will be shown or rented to them. Once the payment is received, the prospective buyer or tenant eventually learns: There was never a property to rent or buy.
“These are common scams and frauds that our consumer protection team handles,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Follow our tips to protect yourself and make sure you are taking every precaution to avoid becoming a scam victim.”
- Always speak first to your university’s financial aid office before making any payments on tuition or a loan, or before giving financial information to anyone.
- Completing financial aid forms – such as FASFA forms – does not cost anything up front.
- Research thoroughly any business before providing personal financial information or credit card information. Make sure the website is a secure website (https://).
- Never give your personal information to anyone who contacts you out of the blue.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, you can call your local police as well as the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Also: contact your bank or credit card company.
This year, the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has warned Pennsylvanians of IRS tax scams, online romance scams, mortgage modification scams, online employment scams, among other fraudulent schemes. Attorney General Shapiro is also working to keep Pennsylvania students safe: he demanded that the U.S. Department of Education halt the rollback of protections for student borrowers, he sued the largest student loan company for abuses, and announced efforts to target student loan debt-relief scams.
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