Scammers target college students with phony emails

Scammers target college students with phony emails

This back-to-school season, many college students are on the lookout for flexible, part-time employment to help cover their school expenses. If this describes you or a student in your life, watch out for scams.

In 2018 employment scams were the number-one culprit for scams attacking 18- to 25-year-olds. BBB Scam Tracker ( has received reports of employment cons impersonating professors and university departments.

You receive an email to your school email address encouraging you to apply for a job. The message appears to come from your school’s job-placement office, student-services department or even a specific professor. The position — it may be anything from pet-sitting to secret shopping — sounds perfect for a college student. The work is easy, has flexible hours and offers excellent pay.

When you reply to the message, things start to get strange. The “employer” hires you without a face-to-face interview. Then they send you a check with instructions to deposit it before you have even done any work. You are instructed to use this money to purchase gift cards, money orders, prepaid debit cards or other supplies you’ll need for your new job. Part of what you purchase should be sent to your new employer. They instruct you to keep the rest of the money as your payment.

However, the check is a fake, a detail your bank will let you know up to a week after you deposit it. Any money you sent to your “employer” is gone for good while you are stuck with any bank fees incurred.

Do your research. Before you say yes to any job, research the company that wants to hire you. Does the company have a professional website and legitimate contact information? Search for what others are saying about their experience with this company.

Beware of red flags. Scammers often send emails with many typos and grammatical errors. They offer to hire you without an interview and even pay you before you have done any work. None of these are behaviors of a reputable business.

Never send money to strangers. Never send funds in the form of cash, checks, gift cards or wire transfers to someone you don’t know or haven’t met. No legitimate company will ask you to pay them to get a job.

Ask others. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion of the job offer including your BBB office. They may see warning signs to help you make an informed decision.

To learn how to avoid employment scams, see You also can find valuable information at

If you have been the victim of an employment scam, report it on Your experience can help others to recognize suspicious behavior and stop scammers in their tracks.

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