COLUMBUS -- As students head back to school, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of scams targeting students.
"People of all ages can be targeted by scams. For a student with limited income, losing money to a con artist can be devastating," Attorney General DeWine said. "Our goal is to help people recognize the warning signs and avoid scams."
Scams targeting students include:
- Grant scams. Consumers receive a message on social media or a phone call saying they're eligible for a federal grant worth several thousand dollars. In order to receive the grant, they're told to pay a few hundred dollars in advance to cover taxes or fees. Ultimately, it's all a scam; there is no real grant and any money the consumer sends will be lost.
- Student loan relief scams. Consumers are contacted by a student loan relief service that offers to help consolidate, reduce, or eliminate their student loans. Consumers are told to pay an upfront fee or to start making their student loan payments to this service. Despite its promises, the debt relief service never reduces the consumer's student loan debt and consumers are left in a worse financial position.
- Part-time job scams. Consumers find a part-time or seasonal job online. They complete an online interview and are selected for the position. As one of their first assignments, they receive a check and are told to deposit it, then immediately send some of the money to fulfill a certain task, such as paying the employer's landlord or buying equipment. After sending the money, the consumer finds out that the employer's check was counterfeit and the job was a scam.
- Apartment rental scams. A consumer finds a good deal on an apartment online and responds to the ad. The "landlord" tells the consumer to wire a down payment to secure the rental. After sending money, however, the consumer finds out that the landlord was a scammer and the rental ad was bogus.
- Online buying and selling scams. Consumers go online to buy or sell an item, such as a car, a bike, or furniture. They pay to buy an item but receive nothing in return. Or, they try to sell an item and a "buyer" sends them a check for more than the agreed-upon price and asks them to send back the extra amount right away (before the buyer's check has cleared). After sending the money, they find out the buyer's check was counterfeit; it was all a scam.
Signs of a potential scam include:
- Requests for wire transfers or money orders.
- Requests for payment over the phone using a gift card.
- Pressure to act immediately.
- Having to send your own money as part of a job.
- Overpayment, such as a check made out for a higher-than-expected amount.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at www.OhioProtects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.