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Connecticut BBB and the FBI Issue warning that criminals are targeting students to commit fraud


CROMWELL —  The Connecticut Better Business Bureau is issuing an alert for students: criminals are trying to get your money and personal information through a variety of techniques.

BBB is echoing a warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about an “impostor” telephone scam which spoofs IDs to make it appear as if the caller works for the FBI or other government agency.

Their aim is to deceive or bully their victims into divulging personal information. They use coercion or threats to frighten students into sending money by an untraceable method, such as a wire transfer, preloaded debit gift card or cashier’s check.

The caller claims the student is behind on payments for a school loan or owes income taxes or money for unpaid parking tickets. The victim is told that they face imminent arrest and may not be eligible to graduate unless they pay up. If victims do pay, the money disappears as does the criminal.

Impostor schemes prey on our fears in an effort to get us to let down our guard. Criminal impostors also pretend to work for utilities and threaten to shut down your electricity, supposedly because of missed payments. It is the same with the IRS impostor scams, in which you are threatened with arrest unless you pay the extortionist immediately.

Many college students are managing their own finances for the first time, and it is not unusual to find themselves getting in over their head in debt. Criminals know that, so they may call, send a letter or email promising to forgive student debt if they pay a fee in advance.

What is the catch? That upfront free is what the criminal is primarily looking for, but they also may ask for personal information to supposedly help process the request. It can then morph into ID theft, in which someone opens lines of credit in your name, committing insurance fraud and sometimes crimes using your information for identification.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers tips to identify and avoid impostor scams:

Don’t believe what you hear – Government agencies will never make an uninitiated contact with you – not the FBI, the IRS, financial institutions, insurance companies, utilities or the judicial system. They will never ask for payment or personal information over the telephone.

Don’t trust caller ID -It can be, and is often spoofed. If you want to call to verify any information you’ve been given, look up the website or telephone number yourself rather than clicking on a link or calling the customer service number provided. Their number may lead you right back to scammers.

Read and then shred documents – Reconcile credit card, banking and utility bills to make certain there are no unauthorized charges, and then destroy them with a shredder.

Secure important paperwork – Arrange for sensitive documents to be sent to a permanent address such as your parents’ home.

Practice safe computing – When you are using a public computer, avoid conducting business or banking transactions – especially if you are using free public Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password. Update software, malware protection and operating system patches to protect your computer from known malware.

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com– Signs of Identity theft often first show up in your credit reports. They are available for free with no strings attached at the government-sanctioned website AnnualCreditReport.com. You will be asked for your date of birth and Social Security Number for authentication.

You will find additional information on protecting yourself from fraud at bbb.org.

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