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Beware Back-to-School Tuition Scams

Back-to-school season means a flurry of shopping — and scams. As you get ready for school, look out for these scams targeting college students and parents of private school students that tend to peak before the start of the school year.

The tuition fee scam

How it plays out: A college student, or the parent of a private school student, gets a phone call from a caller introducing themself as an administrator at their school or their child’s school. The caller claims the student or parent owes tuition fees and will not be allowed to return to school unless the fees are paid. The caller provides the victim with information for wiring money or dropping off cash at a private address. Once the money is sent, it will never be seen again.

Protect yourself: Most schools will not insist on immediate payment or payment through a wire transfer. If you receive a call like this, ask the caller detailed questions about the school, their position and the money owed. If it’s a scam, the caller will not be able to answer well. You can also insist on calling the school directly to make the payment.

The student tax scam

How it plays out: Someone allegedly representing the IRS calls a college student at a public university claiming they neglected to pay their student tax. The caller explains that failure to pay can result in disqualification from class and possible imprisonment. They also insist on immediate payment by prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

Protect yourself: You can spot this scam by remembering that the IRS will always first contact people by mail. Also, the IRS won’t insist on being paid through gift card or wire transfer.

The scholarship scam

How it plays out: A scammer reaches out to a college student telling them they’ve been guaranteed approval for a scholarship, but must pay a fee to receive it. Unfortunately, the scholarship is bogus.

Protect yourself: Student scholarships don’t charge for eligibility. Also, no company will guarantee approval for a scholarship; there is always a vetting process of some kind before eligibility is determined.

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