Students fall victim to online scams


This story was written by Allison Garrett

Everyone is vulnerable to being scammed. Scammers are targeting BYU-Idaho students online and over the phone.

“We have a lot of cases of online scams in Rexburg,” said Captain Randy Lewis, of the Rexburg Police Department. “And we have a lot of victims.”

According to scamwatch.gov, $81,594,589 was lost in 2016.

Lewis said students might be more vulnerable to scams because they have less money and are looking for jobs or more inexpensive items.

“These frauds range from being a nanny to housekeeping, to housing and to the IRS saying that you owe money,” Lewis said.

Lewis said one of the most common scams the Rexburg Police Department sees is students being hired to be a mystery shopper. The scammer says they will send a check and has the students buy merchandise with the check they receive.

“When they send you the check though, it won’t be for $200; it will be for something like $1000,” Lewis said. “They’ll say they made a mistake and tell you to take it to the bank and cash that and to keep some of the extra money.”

Eighty percent of college students think that they are not susceptible, when in fact college students are three times more likely to be targeted for online and over-the-phone scams, according to the Better Business Bureau website.          TANNER WAITE | Scroll Photography

Lewis said this is where a lot of students become victims to having financial problems. He said the scammer will have you send the money through a wire transfer, such as MoneyGram. Once students cash this fraudulent check, the bank is no longer responsible.

“There is a five-day window for processing after you put a check into the bank,” Lewis said. “If you go out and spend that money, you are responsible for it. If you receive a check in the mail, don’t cash it.”

Lewis said he advises staying off Craigslist because this is where a lot of the scams happen.

“If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “You are most likely being scammed.”

Brooklyn Monson, a senior in the nursing program, said she was a victim of a scam when she was looking to buy a car.

“I was looking for a car on KSL.com, and I found a car that was good quality for a good price — almost too good to be true,” Monson said.

Monson said the woman selling the car told her that she was going to be deployed by the military soon and was going to be doing the transaction through eBay.

“Since it sounded too good to be true, I talked to my dad, whose co-worker’s wife works for eBay,” Monson said. “She told my dad that this was a common scam on eBay.”

Lewis said that while most scams are over the Internet, there are some that happen over the phone also.

“My advice is to just not talk to anyone,” he said. “The IRS is not going to call you and ask for money or social security numbers. It doesn’t work like that.”

These scams are called phishing scams, where it is made to look like you are being contacted by banks or credit unions, according to fraudguides.com.

Lewis said if you are contacted, ask for a name and number, and then call them back to check if it is a valid number and name.

Lewis said scams are a difficult thing to deal with for the police and the FBI.

“The FBI doesn’t deal with small scams because there are millions of them going on all over the country,” he said. “They are just after the big scams with a lot of money involved.”

Lewis said if students get scammed, they should report it to the police, and the police department will try their best to investigate the scam with the resources they have.

Lewis said students should try to stay offline while looking for things in order to avoid scams.



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