BBB Tip: Common scams targeting college-aged consumers this back-to-school season

Across Texas, college students are setting themselves up for success during the upcoming semester by purchasing supplies, moving into dorms or apartments, and mentally preparing for new experiences. While many items college students purchase are similar to K-12 students, their needs also extend to food or meal plans, personal care items and other necessities typically provided at home. This year, back-to-college spending is expected to reach a record $94 billion ($20 billion more than in 2022), doubling the expected spending for back-to-school shopping ($41.5 billion). With nearly half (49%) of back-to-college shoppers expected to do most of their shopping online, Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds consumers to remain aware of online scams and other schemes designed to impact young adults.

In 2022, 18–24-year-olds reported the highest median losses to scams of all age groups to BBB Scam Tracker, with the top three riskiest scams including employment, online purchase, and rental. Employment scams typically advertise high-paying opportunities with flexible working hours that appeal to students who need to work around their course schedule. These jobs are often promoted as work-from-home opportunities involving data entry or package reshipment, but also include secret shopper, car-wrap advertising, or secretarial positions.

For many young adults, attending college provides their first opportunity to make financial decisions such as purchasing a vehicle, opening a line of credit, or budgeting monthly expenses. In some cases, their unfamiliarity with making financial choices places them at risk of becoming a target for unethical businesses and scams or puts them in a situation that will take years to fix. To help college students increase their financial literacy and prevent making decisions that will negatively affect them for years to come, BBB recommends parents spend the time to outline key elements of financial well-being such as the dangers of debt, the importance of an emergency fund, and how to develop a well-rounded budget.

Whether you are a student starting school away from home or have young students who may be vulnerable to such scams, BBB recommends watching out for these scams before heading into the new semester.

Fake credit cards. Offers to apply for their first credit card tempt many students as they navigate the financial obligations of attending college. However, unchecked spending on credit cards may create financial difficulties down the road, and some offered deals may be designed to access personal information. Research the offers from credit card flyers and banking institutions before applying. Visit for more tips on identifying and avoiding credit card scams.

Fraudulent apartment listings. When searching for apartments, it is difficult to avoid jumping at an opportunity to live in an apartment close to campus, especially if it advertises affordable rent. If the apartment requires a credit card or banking information to “reserve” or “lock in” the unit, BBB strongly recommends seeing the apartment before transferring any money. Much like other scams, if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. These tips also apply to online ads for those seeking roommates or taking over a lease.

Scholarship and grant scams. Be wary of phone calls from companies that “guarantee” you will receive a scholarship or grant money if you use their services. Spend time researching the company and contacting the school’s financial aid office for advice on financing your education.

Scholarship scams can affect college graduates for years after they’ve completed their degree and may increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft. Visit for more tips on how to identify and avoid scholarship scams.

Online purchasing scams. Online purchases continue to take a heavy toll on American consumers of all ages. Recently, pet scams have become one of the most costly online purchases consumers make, with many losing thousands of dollars between purchasing the pet and arranging for its transportation. BBB recommends using a credit card to buy products from an online seller whenever possible due to the additional protection they offer to remove charges for services or goods never rendered or received. Be wary of any seller that insists on payment through a gift card or wire transfer. If using a mobile payment app, use the option that includes the greatest protection, such as PayPal’s business transaction system, not their friends and family payment.

For more information about how to avoid identity theft on campus, visit

If you have been a scam victim, report it to Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.