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Why college students and young adults are targets for scams

Scams targeting young adults Whether looking for a job, renting an apartment, or applying for a scholarship, young adults should follow these tips to help stay financially safe.

Scam #1: Job scams

Scammers commonly target college students through texts, emails, or online ads and may impersonate well-known companies or even a professor from their university or college.

These fake job listings may charge you for training, ask you for your personal and financial information, or ask you to buy expensive equipment to work from home.

Another scam is to overpay you with a fraudulent check and request that you send the difference back to them or someone else through an immediate form of payment. Keep in mind when sending money using a mobile payment app, gift cards, or wire transfers, the payment is not returnable and you could be held responsible for any money sent – meaning you will likely lose that money.

To help avoid job scams:

  • Ignore any request from an employer to repay an "overpayment" or to send them or someone else money through mobile app, gift cards or wire transfer. These are all red flags.
  • Don't respond to a job post that guarantees you a job for a fee or paid training. 
  • Be wary of secret shopper or work-from-home postings that require no training or experience. Research these companies carefully.

Scam #2: Rental scams

As a young adult, you may tend to move frequently, whether to a college dorm or an apartment. This can make you more likely to encounter a rental scam.

Scammers may post fake rental listings complete with real photos and descriptions. Once you express interest, you may be pressured to make a rental deposit immediately – often by wire transfer – and your money is stolen.

To help avoid rental scams:

  • Avoid any rental listings that require immediate action. If you cannot meet in person, see the rental property, and sign a lease before you pay a rental deposit, keep looking.
  • Don't send a rental deposit by wire transfer. These payments cannot be recovered.
  • Be wary of poorly written correspondence or ads with vague descriptions, misspellings, grammar mistakes, or unusual formatting.
  • Research the landlord online to confirm whether they have been named in scams in the past.
  • Use the Better Business Bureau to research reputable property management companies.

Scam #3: Scholarship and financial aid scams

Scammers often target college students by claiming to offer scholarships, educational grants, and other financial aid packages for a fee. They may also conduct seminars and then request immediate payment in order to receive the supposed financial aid.

Scammers may also ask for checking account information, claiming it will confirm your eligibility, and then secretly debit the account. Some also ask your permission to charge a recurring fee, but even if you cancel the service, these charges continue.

To help avoid financial aid and scholarship scams:

  • Use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the largest provider of student financial aid in the nation, if you are applying for financial aid.
  • Visit the U.S. Department of Education for information on how to find legitimate scholarships.
  • Use reputable scholarship sites such as TFS Scholarships, which has over 7 million scholarships to search and apply for, totaling over $41 billion in funds to award.
  • Do not accept offers for “guaranteed” scholarships you did not apply for.
  • Avoid services that claim you will be eligible only if you provide an upfront payment.
  • Investigate the individual or organization you are considering paying for help. Talk to a school counselor or financial aid advisor before spending your money because you may be able to receive the same services for free.

 Tip 

Shred unwanted credit card offers and other sensitive paper documents before discarding.

If you are a Wells Fargo customer and think you've been a victim of a scam, contact Wells Fargo immediately.

Learn more about common scams and how to avoid them on the Security Center.

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