Bamboozled May 19, 2016: Boost your college grad’s scam IQ

As young adults transition from college life to real life, they’re going to have a lot of firsts.

A first job. A first apartment. A first credit card.

Let’s make sure they don’t also get their first scam.

Fraudsters use their creativity to target certain populations, and new college grads are no different. In many ways, they’re ripe for the taking. Money is tight for most new grads as they look for work and a new place to live.

Share these important tips to boost your college grad’s scam IQ.

Fake job scams

Fake job scams come in many flavors. First, there are phony jobs that in which the scammer uses a fake check scheme to steal money from the prospective employee. The ad seems legit and draws in the employee by offering flexible hours and decent pay. It’s common for dog walking, house sitting and babysitting work,  and even mystery shopper jobs, but you can find these scams targeting office workers, telemarketing positions, or just about anything.

Here’s how it works. After the employee gets the job, the employer sends him a check. The amount is supposed to cover the employee’s pay, and often includes substantial funds for the employee to purchase items needed for the job. But then the employer changes his mind and asks the employee to send back the extra cash, either by wire transfer or by purchasing pre-paid debit cards.

The employee, eager to please his new boss and show how reliable he is, deposits the check and arranges for the wire payment or debit cards. Then wham — the deposited check bounces and the employee is on the hook with a big checking account overdraft.

Scammers are tricking college students into depositing fake checks for a profit.

Con artists also use unsuspecting job seekers in a money laundering scam. The advertised position is for human resources, payroll, bookkeeping or accounting work. The new hire is instructed to give his bank account information to accept deposits, and then the employee is supposed to wire the funds to a corporate account. When authorities catch on, the employee’s bank account will be frozen so he won’t be able to access his own money, and the employee could be arrested for being part of the fraud scheme.

Also look out for a similar scam that involves re-shipping what turn out to be stolen goods.

Other scammers target job seekers in the application process.  This is an attempt to grab private information that can be used for identity theft.

When the prospective employee fills out an online application for these jobs, they’re asked to provide just about everything the scammer needs — a Social Security number, birth date, even bank account information for future direct deposits. But there is no real job, and the applicant is in serious risk of being defrauded in the future.

Phony apartment rentals

This scam has been going on a long time. Someone who doesn’t have the right to rent a home or an apartment does it anyway. And the renter ends up out hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

The fake landlord will advertise a rental with real photos. Sometimes the rent is at a bargain price.

The problem? The landlord doesn’t really own the property. When the renter comes to see the property, the landlord for some reason isn’t able to find the key. Or the landlord does have a key, but it’s for a property that’s been foreclosed upon.

Either way, the property has garnered lots of interest, the landlord says, and if the renter doesn’t act quickly, the property will be gone.

The renter would need to put down first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.

And before long, often on moving day — when the renter has a truck filled with his stuff — the scheme is exposed and the renter is left with nothing.

Arrest threats

Like they do in the IRS fake tax debt scam, hucksters will call recent graduates and impersonate law enforcement.

“Your student loan is delinquent,” they may say. “If you don’t pay immediately, we will issue a warrant for your arrest.”

The caller then instructs the debtor to wire money or purchase pre-paid debit cards to cover the amount owed.

But it’s a scam.

With college debt a widespread problem, scammers are trying to take advantage of your financial challenges.

The crooks are also targeting current college students.

The FBI said students have been receiving calls from what looks to be a local FBI field office, and the caller threatens arrest if thousands of dollars are not paid immediately.

“In each case, the threats are associated with false claims ranging from money owed for student loans to delinquent taxes and overdue parking tickets,” the FBI said.

So far, the scam has been reported in at least eight states so far: Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Montana and Nebraska, the FBI said.

Don’t be surprised if New Jersey lands on that list.

Along the way, the scammers may ask for private information so they can use it for identity theft purposes.

Ignore the calls. Just hang up.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.

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