College is a time of independence, growth and added responsibility for young adults. For the first time, many college students find themselves living away from their parents and being newly responsible for bills and other aspects of their financial lives. While exciting, this time can also unfortunately expose college students – even tech-savvy ones – to financial frauds and scams. With the increased use of digital technology, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, scam artists have become even more sophisticated and bold in trying to scam individuals at all ages and income brackets.
Here’s six tips, from the experts at Westerra Credit Union, for young adults to help protect their personal identity and money.
Never share personal financial information
Scam artists will use all channels to get in touch with individuals, including phone calls, unsolicited emails, texts or mail, and through social media, to request personal information, such as, your bank account number, Social Security number, or date of birth. Do not respond with this information! Instead, contact the financial institution that is claiming to be requesting this information through a phone number or email you have verified through their website or another reputable source. If the scam is related to the COVID-19 vaccine or another type of pandemic-related issue, report it to your financial institution.
Don’t click on links in unsolicited texts
Because many people utilize texts to receive legitimate alerts from their financial institution, text scams are on the rise and it is easy to believe a malicious text claiming you have been subject to fraud or another issue. Don’t ever click on a link sent to you via text. Instead, open your mobile app or a browser and sign into your account. If there is a real fraud issue, you will be notified via those channels.
Promises offered on social media are usually fake
Don’t fall for false promises of easy money! Scammers will often reach out via social media platforms promising to pay students’ tuition or to provide “grant money.” The reality is the scammer is not trying to give you money but get money from you through the information you share with them. Use social media wisely and with a healthy dose of skepticism. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is!
Telephone scams can sound real
Telephone scammers can be calls from real people or robo-calls. These callers can be very convincing and often make false promises, such as offering opportunities to buy products, invest money, receive free product trials, or claim you “won” money through a grant or lottery. In other calls, scammers may threaten you with jail or lawsuits if you don’t pay them or give them information. Do not provide personal information or verification of information over the phone. Instead, hang up and contact the financial institution that is claiming to be requesting this information through a phone number or email you have verified through their website or another reputable source. If you have questions about a suspicious phone call or believe it is a scam, contact your financial institution immediately.
Receiving “free” money via an unsolicited check
This is a specific type of scam that promises “free” money with little effort. A check arrives in the mail with a simple request – deposit it in your bank account and wire part of the money back to an individual. However, these checks are counterfeit! So once you deposit it, you’ll not only have to pay the amount of the check, but you’ll lose any money you wired. Sometimes scammers send checks for no reason, but sometimes there are elaborate stories included with the check. Your best bet is to shred or dispose of the check and ignore it.
Be diligent about automatic withdrawals and purchases
Be diligent and check your financial accounts and statements often. Make sure to double-check you authorized all automatic withdrawals and purchases. Also, don’t fall for offers from companies, which are often fake, to set up automatic withdrawals from your checking account in order to qualify for a free trial of a product or to collect a prize.. If something looks or sounds suspicious, contact your financial institution immediately.
For more financial safety tips and scam alerts visit westerracu.com/news/fraud-alerts. Westerra Credit Union has branch locations across Metro Denver including at 7270A W. 88th Ave. in Arvada.