The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a new phone scam targeting college students.
What the scam looks like
According to the BBB of Eastern Michigan, scammers are calling college students claiming to be from the local police department, IRS or other government agency, and telling them they owe money for an arrest warrant, unpaid student loans, unpaid federal or state taxes, and in some cases, immigration issues. The BBB says the callers then tell students to send money via transfer service or prepaid card, or to provide their bank account information in order to avoid jail time.
Read more: Fake IRS phone scam making the rounds again
One reason the scam has been difficult to spot is because the thieves have found a way to use legitimate phone numbers of the government group or law enforcement agency they claim to be calling from — so a real number shows up on the caller ID.
The BBB also recently issued a separate warning about a similar scam targeting college students — with scammers specifically claiming to be from the FBI. According to the BBB, the FBI has received complaints from students at various universities about calls involving scammers claiming to be from the U.S. government or FBI, and in these cases, the callers said the student was delinquent on student loans, dues, taxes or parking tickets. The callers then threatened the students with arrest and preventing them from graduating, if they did not spend money immediately via MoneyGram.
Read more: Beware of the one ring scam on your phone
How to avoid these scams
Phone scams are nothing new, but scammers have continued to find new ways of fooling people over the phone.
Here are a few things to know to help you spot these types of scams:
Scammers are using caller ID spoofing to fool people into thinking they are from government groups, hospitals, your bank — any way they can get you to give them your personal information over the phone. Scammers can get any number to show up on your caller ID, so never give out information over the phone to someone who contacts you.
The IRS, and any other legitimate government agency, will not contact you by phone asking for money. They only contact you by snail mail if they want to get in touch with you. So if you get one of these calls claiming to be from the IRS or other government entity, hang up the phone!
Plus, here are some tips to help you protect your information and prevent it from getting into the hands of the wrong people:
Never give out your bank information over the phone to someone who calls you. If you want to look into the legitimacy of the claim, call the company or government agency directly to get more information.
Don’t open an email from a sender with an email address you don’t recognize. If it appears to be from a company you do business with, call the company directly to find out if there is any message or notice you need to know about.
Never click on any links in an email that you weren’t expecting. If you want to find out if a claim made in an email is legitimate, call the company directly.
Never give out your passwords, account information or Social Security number over the phone to someone who has called you.
Never send your passwords, account information or Social Security number in an email.
If you think you may be a victim of one of these scams, see Clark’s Identity Theft Guide for what to do next.