British Columbia

Better Business Bureau warns students about back-to-school scams

The Better Business Bureau says this is the time of year fraudsters try to take advantage of students searching for a job or accommodation.

Consumer watchdog says university and college students are highly susceptible to scams

Students are prone to scams because they have "optimism bias," according to the Better Business Bureau. (CBC)

The Better Business Bureau is gearing up for back to school by warning students to keep an eye out for scams leading up to the fall semester.

Evan Kelly with BBB says post-secondary school students are highly susceptible to scams, especially at this time of the year.

"They're affected with what's called an optimism bias, which makes them feel very vulnerable and basically ignore any safety precautions," he said.

Look out for these scams

Kelly says there are several common scams to watch out for. Examples include:

  • Roommate/rental scams. 
    Beware of "fake roommates" who are out of the country, but can provide the rent up front in the form of a money order. Fraudsters send a sum higher than the amount requested and then ask to cash it and wire back the rest. 
  • Employment.
    Beware of ads that pop up near campus offering jobs with "no experience necessary." Often, these "opportunities" are bogus. They could be another cheque-cashing scheme. If you are interviewed at all or in a hotel lobby and have to pay for everything, including training, travel, lodging, food, etc., associated with the job, forget it! 
  • Online shopping deals. 
    This scheme involves a scammer posting a much-wanted item for a steep discount online. The catch? The site asks you to wire payment to them instead of using a credit card, which should ring alarm bells. Once the money is sent, the item is never received. 

Kelly suggests meeting in person to avoid falling victim to most of these scams.

"You don't want to respond to anyone who claims to be out of the country and going to be there soon," said Kelly. "That's just a big red flag, you don't want to send any money to anyone you've never met."

He also recommends calling the BBB or local authorities if you do end up being scammed.