Avoiding Scams, The Modern Day Thievery

Your judgement is what keeps your money yours, and not scammers.
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In a previous post I have mentioned how scams are a concern for personal finance. In this post I will bring up advice on avoiding scams. Luckily, I was never swindled for money when the situation was under my control. However, I have heard of, and even come close to some experiences in which a scammer almost took my money. Unfortunately, scams can happen to anyone.

I will not bring up anything involving Nigerian princes, gift cards, or anything too obvious. In fact, the advice on avoiding scams will be primarily for young adults from high school to just finishing their graduate degree or starting their first job.

Avoiding Scholarship Scams

I have heard of people who steal money from people trying to make it through college without going into debt or at least with less debt. Whoever is responsible for these scams are among the dirtiest scum in the world.

Someone I knew lost their athletic scholarship after a fracture and they were desperate. They tried to find some scholarships, but many legit ones just turned them down. After that they tried this other “scholarship” and they asked them for some money before they could even see their application. They paid for it and never heard from them again. This may seem obvious at first, but imagine that you have achieved your dream and then it was very quickly taken in an instant. They were not in their right mind.

If anyone asks for money before allowing you to apply, do not even give them another thought. Some may ask for personal information (not abnormal since they want to be sure you are actually going to college in the US and that you are real). You should make sure that the scholarship is legit before applying. In general, the longer the source was around, the more people talk about it.

Buying Any Goods Online Unverified

To people who try to find the best deals for certain goods online, good for you, but please be cautious. Amazon and other eCommerce sites, have policies that can protect you from fraudulent activity. Others like Craigslist as far as I know have no policies to protect customers, when I looked all they had was an advice page.

Truth is, there are risks to buying anything online. You should try to ask to meet up AT A PLACE YOU DESIGNATE. Otherwise, you may want to find some other ways to buy it. For many goods aside from books, I almost always buy new since I have no idea of where that stuff was. But note even Amazon provides those deals and while minimizing the risk of fraud.

Avoiding Rental Scams

When I was looking at off-campus living before graduate school, I had to drive all the way across state to Philadelphia. That was not a short trip. My mother suggested that I just call or Skype the potential landlords. NEVER DO THIS.

I have heard of situations where people have agreed to a lease online (sometimes Craigslist) and paid for the deposit without checking the residence. There are so many reasons not to do this. The least damaging is similar to buying unverified goods, and you will purchase a residence that for all you know you would have to share with 60,000 roommates each with at least 4 legs.

The worst it could be is a complete scam. The advertiser may not even own the property and just took a picture, posted it online like a landlord would, and asked for money. Usually they will say they will meet up after the payment or even go as far as to provide you a key that is fake and say that the locks are being changed. In short, never provide anyone with money up front until they show you the place and make sure the landlord does not see a single penny until they show you a lease and working keys.

Avoiding Academic “Assistance” Scams

While I am not surprised about the existence of academic scams I am surprised of the breadth they’ve taken. Apparently, you can find people who will write course papers and assignments for you. In high school and college I have even heard of some students attempting to hire someone to take some tests for them. This even happens with the SAT and ACT. There is a word for this. What is it?… Oh yeah! CHEATING!

As ridiculous (and hilarious) as it would be to have shady characters selling papers in a dark alleyway, people who do this don’t have to go to such measures.

The consequences for trying to hire people to cheat for you is bad enough as is. However, many of these people are scammers. I know of two people who hired someone to write an assignment for them. One hired this person for a few hundred dollars, the other OVER $2,000. They both said the person was from across seas, one from France, the other from Italy. That is assuming the scammers were honest about that (not likely). Once they paid these people, they never saw their assignment. One was able to complete their assignment on time. The other was trying to write a term paper in two days so they probably did not make it. They could not report these scams because that would be self-incrimination (well one did not, the other I never heard from again). They would more likely face the consequences to the scam than the scammers.

Where to start? First, do not actually do any of these. The point of an education is dulled as soon as you pay someone else to do what you are supposed to do. Second, if you get caught doing this, you could be ejected from the school (no refunds for the term either if you are beyond high school). Third, you should not trust anyone who tries to profit on dishonesty.

Course Scalping

Many may have heard of them, but few have experienced them. I have heard claims that people get seats in courses and try to sell the enrollment to other students.

This may sound like something completely stupid, but there are popular and most of the time required courses in which students have a hard time getting. It is even worse for computer sciences as the number of people signing up for computer science courses has substantially increased to a point where there is no more room in classes. Some people as desperate to go to such measures.

Are They Real Or Fake?

There is argument of many of these advertisements are false. I personally do not even know about the legality of such “transactions.” Apparently there are possibly legit services to buy these seats provided by certain universities.

I am not one who has experiences with such stress. My degree was in biochemistry, not exactly the most popular major and I always had priority registration. However, I can understand the stress some people may face when they register later than others and see that the course is no longer available.

There Is A Better Way

I recommend planning your curriculum in advance. This will allow you to try to minimize the chances of these situations and provide you with alternative classes you will need to graduate. Therefore, if something was to go wrong, you can adapt and try for that required class another term or year.

I would never recommend buying a course to finish an education you are already paying for. If you are in such a position, make sure to read the university policies before resorting to such measures. Usually universities will have policies in which require universities to provide classroom spots to potential graduating students. Only graduating, if you are not graduating the policy may not apply to you.

But, you may have to resort to buying a course. You should never buy a course from someone on Craigslist or anywhere that is unverified. If you find a verified source, note that these courses could easily cost over $100, sometimes even $1,000. I would say anything less is probably a scam.

Final Thoughts

Stress is guaranteed when you are young. Avoiding scams can be hard when stress is involved. Truth is, the basics to avoiding most scams are natural instincts. If you feel like something is off, it is at least best to look more into it and ask questions. Remember, scammers are fake businessmen, they have little or nothing to give to you. Real businessmen actually have something to give and it is in their best interest to accommodate for your questions and needs before purchasing. If something seems shady and you cannot actually see the product you are purchasing, then it is shady and maybe even illegal. Avoiding scams will put you on the path to forge your wealth.

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