A Nigerian prince wants to offer you millions of dollars for an exciting new business opportunity. Sending your credit card information will allow you to become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams.
Most people are quick to realize that this is a blatant scam. However, especially in a rough economy, scammers are stepping up their game more than ever. Desperate times have called for desperate measures, and scam artists are more desperate than ever.
Identity theft and identity fraud are both very large problems for college students. In fact, a 2009 report by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that young adults ages 20 to 29 issued more complaints of identity theft than any other age group.
Congress has started to pass laws in an effort to limit the amount of identity theft. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 was a large step toward that goal. The bill contains provisions to keep creditors off college campuses and others that give every U.S. citizen the right to one free credit report per year. There isn't any way to truly become immune to identity fraud, but a simple credit report check can help solve things sooner rather than later.
Even websites that proclaim to fight scammers, like FreeCreditReport.com, try to deceive people. "Free" reports are only given when a person signs up for a service, which costs $15 a month to monitor.
At a recent financial workshop at UB called "40 Money Management Tips Every Student Should Know About," Kellie Kostek, financial literacy coordinator with Student Life, cautioned students against using this service.
"FreeCreditReport.com is not free," Kostek said. "Students should instead use AnnualCreditReport.com to monitor their credit."
Most students are attending college with the intention of making a lot of money after leaving. Credit card companies play upon this fact, and so do identity thieves.
If scammers are becoming desperate to steal information, we are in desperate need to protect information.
According to Kostek, students are also in desperate need of making wise financial decisions, not only to protect themselves from identity theft, but also to maintain monetary security during and after college.
At the workshop, she shared that the National Student Loan Data System has a free tool for students to get up to date information about their federal student loans. This tool is only for federal loans, so students with privately financed loans will have to contact their lenders for the same information.
Kostek advised students to be cautious when making purchases with friends, because peer pressure can lead to increased spending.
"If you have a friend who you go out with and he keeps ordering drink after drink, naturally your bill will be higher," Kostek said.
To avoid this problem, she recommended finding friends who enjoy attending free events around campus, most of which have free food.
"Students spend a fortune on coffee," Kostek said. "If you're going to spend $2 a day on coffee, consider making it at home. The money you save will add up and you may have enough to cover your books for next semester or even a spring break trip."
Kostek also warns students to be careful of Campus Cash.
"It's far too easy to sign up for Campus Cash here at UB," Kostek said. "I've seen students get check stopped and ultimately leave the university because they were unable to pay off the campus cash they had charged to their student accounts during the semester."
Students attending the workshop were also given literature on free tools like CashCourse, a financial planning tool with worksheets and calculators online, and Money Matters, a website by the Federal Trade Commission featuring tips, tricks and videos for financial success.
For more information on free workshops around campus, visit workshops.buffalo.edu for a full schedule of events.
The financial message Kostek delivered to students was humble.
"Net worth is not the same as self-worth. A balance between good friends, good health and good finances is important."