Nationwide Internet Scams

Posted on Wednesday, Jun 07, 2017

College students are quickly becoming the targets of online roommate and rental scams nationwide. Typically, these scammers will respond to roommate or sublet ads placed online in an effort to take your money and commit fraud.

With instances like these growing throughout college campuses, it is important to understand the dangers and effects. Ohio State University published an article highlighting the scenarios, the warning signs, and the steps you should take to protect yourself.
The gist of the scams in the article go like this:
  • The scammer could email you about your online ad and ask questions about the property and the specific pricings.
    • Why is this a red flag?
      • Typically when a tenant wants to move into a new place, they ask to see it first, scammers don’t tend to do this, and instead be willing to pay for it without actually meeting you, the landlord, or looking at the place first.
    • How to protect yourself.
      • Meet the person, and avoid those who find excuses to not meet in person, or ask you to meet with someone else.
  • They may ask you for personal information, usually including your full name, address, and bank account.
    • This is the biggest risk.
      • Do not share your personal information. This is how the scammer gains access to all your credentials. They are typically not willing to disclose any of their own personal information.
    • How to protect yourself.
      • Conduct your own background check. Look up the name of the individual and gather as much information as you can. Ask for specific information including (but not limited to) phone number, copy of their drivers license, SSN, and employer verification.
  • The scammer will usually send you more money than you agreed on, and then ask you to wire them the excess money back to them.
    • Here is where they take your money.
      • Once you wire them the money, their check bounces, and they take the money you gave back to them.
    • How to protect yourself.
      • Do not accept cashiers checks and do not wire funds. Any mention of specific methods of payment in the first email or phone call is extremely suspicious. And never accept overpayments.
Additionally, Homeland Security offers advice on how to protect yourself from two other very common internet scams.
  • Phishing attacks
    • These attacks use emails and websites to infect your computer with viruses that collect all your private information.
    • Typically these attacks lead you to websites that ask for your personal information.
    • Avoid these attacks by not accessing personal accounts from public wifi, and never reveal personal information (such as bank account numbers, SSN, address, or date of birth) to unreliable sources.
  • Imposter Scams
    • These scammer generally impersonates government officials asking for personal information or money.
    • Avoid these attacks by collecting contact information from the caller, never giving them personal or financial information, end the call if you receive threats and intimidation persists, and most importantly contact your designated school official and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line to report the scam.
Students must exercise extreme caution when negotiating online, and understanding the risks is essential for knowing how to avoid them in the future.
If you are a victim of scam, please reach out to the following services:
1)         University Police Department
            1111 Research Pkwy, College Station, TX 77845
            (979) 845-2345
2)         Student Legal Services
            Bizzell Hall West, First Floor
            (979) 862-4502

3)         International Student Services
110 Pavilion, Texas A&M University
(979) 845-1824
For more information visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information Page for more information about common scams.