College Phone Scams: 4 Telephone Scams Targeting College Students

Phone scammers have taken on a new target: the college student. We've compiled a list of the most common phone scams that affect college students and how you can avoid them.

College students targeted for phone scams

1. The Mysterious Missed Call

You’re in the library studying and you realize you forgot to put your phone on silent as it starts to ring. Suddenly it goes silent after that one ring and displays a missed call. You wonder if it might be the job you’ve applied for calling, you decide to call back.

In reality the number is from Canada or the Caribbean and it's a one-ring call phone scam. A scammer is charging you long distance fees for calling back. They will try to keep you on the line and get personal information. The fees that they charge will show up on your phone bill and it’ll probably only be for a few bucks. However, once you call back it shows that there is a live person attached to your number and you’ll be targeted by many more nuisance and scam calls.

The best way to avoid this scam is by using a reverse phone lookup service, like CallerSmart, to check for suspicious behavior on the number that called you. If you’ve already called back an unknown number and it led to asking for personal information, just hang up. You should also check your monthly phone bill for any long distance charges and report them to your wireless service. Carriers are familiar with this scam and will typically reimburse you.

2. Fake Grants and Loans

You may have previously received a phone call that declared that you’ve been selected for a grant or that you’re pre-approved for a student loan that will help pay for your education. Don’t believe these annoying payday scammers. We've had many users comment on federal grant phone scams.

(425) 559-9332: They speak about calling from the federal government and about student loans, but also try to harvest information. They actually spewed profanities at me when I said they have the wrong number.

It's highly likely that they are only trying to get personal information out of you, or solicit money from you to pay some small fees before the rest of the money they are promising is all yours. Again, it’s important to remember not to give your personal information out when taking an unsolicited call. If you haven’t applied for a loan or a grant, it’s highly unlikely that a trusted lending business or government institution is going to call you to offer one.

You might also get a call from someone claiming to be able to refinance your student loans. Be very wary of callers like this as it's often a scam. Check out this comprehensive guide on refinancing private and federal student loans if this is something your thinking about.

Whenever you get a call related to a loan or grant be sure to get the caller’s information and then tell them that you’ll call back later. This will give you the opportunity to do some snooping and see whether or not it was a legit call. It will also give you the opportunity to report the caller to the FTC and block calls from annoying numbers.

3. Arrest Warrant Threats

Phone scammers will often call and threaten people with arrest if they do not send money. The reasons can vary from missing jury duty to having delinquent parking tickets. The scam will almost always follow this pattern.

  1. A call from the FBI, local sheriff’s department or another government office flashes on your caller ID.
  2. The caller says that you owe a fine and there’s been an arrest warrant written in your name.
  3. If you don’t pay said fines, you will be arrested.
  4. The caller will ask you to pay the fines via pre-paid debit cards, MoneyGram, or some other money transfer service.

The goal of the scammer is to get you to panic and pay. With students the scammer usually tells them that they have overdue parking tickets, owe tuition money, or need to pay off a student loan. They threaten that if the student doesn’t pay they may be arrested and will be ineligible to graduate.

The best thing to do when you get a call like this is to hang up. FBI and police, as well as other government offices, will never call and request that you pay a fine via a pre-paid debit card or a money transfer service. If you’ve gotten a call like this you should report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

4. The Grandparent Scam

With the rise of social media and sharing everythingthe grandparent phone scam has been becoming more frequent. It targets grandparents, convincing them that their grandchild is in trouble and that they need to send money to help.

Let’s say you’ve got your spring break trip all planned out, or maybe you’re going to be studying abroad next year. If you have a public profile on one of the many social networking sites that there are, scammers can get personal information. They can find out the name of friends and family members and see whether or not you are traveling.

With this information in hand they will call your grandmother or grandfather pretending to be you. The will say that you’ve had an accident or that you've got in some trouble and you need help in the form of money. The scammer will often know the names of your parents and ask that they not be contacted in order not to upset them.  The scammer will then give your grandparents specific instructions on how to send the money.

These scams will often times have elaborate back stories and multiple scammers will be involved in order to convince your grandparent that you are actually in danger. 

While this scam doesn’t target students directly it does target the loved ones of students, and it’s important to take precautions to prevent grandparents from being taken advantage of. Take the time to tell your grandparents that you will never call them and ask them to send you money via a wire transfer service.

Tell them that if they do receive a call asking for help they should first ask for more information, hang up and then call you back on your personal phone number. Chances are that you won’t be in any sort of danger and you will be able to talk to them and assure them that nothing is wrong. 

It’s also important to be careful of who you are sharing information with and what information you’re sharing online. Go through your security settings on the social sites you use, like Facebook and Instagram, and set them to share with only friends. 

Keeping yourself, family and friends up to date on the types of scams that are out there is the best way to protect yourself. If you or someone you know has been targeted by scammers you should report it to the authorities.

You can also help warn others of potential phone scams with our free reverse phone book app for iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone, but would still like to warn others you can run an unknown caller lookup on our website and leave your feedback.