Fraud involving credit, debt, loans, grants and scholarships
Whenever money exchanges hands, you can be sure there are bad actors looking to take advantage of the situation. Below are some of the more common credit, debt and loan-based scams.
Credit card loss protection
If your credit card is lost or stolen, it’s a hassle, but don’t be tricked into buying protection for your card. Oregon State Credit Union issues credit cards from Visa. Visa’s Zero Liability Policy guarantees you won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your account or account information. Also be suspicious of anyone who calls claiming to be from your credit card issuer who wants to “verify” your account number to make sure your card is protected. Your real credit card issuer already knows your account number. If Visa’s Fraud Protection department calls, they will need to verify your identification. To do this, they may ask for the last four digits of the card number and other identifying information, like your phone number, but they will not ask for the entire credit card number.
Your credit history is built over time and is a reflection of your ability and willingness to handle debt in a responsible manner. Be wary of any person or company who offers to “fix” a less than stellar credit history, especially if they want to be paid up front. Accurate information cannot be removed from your history; only incorrect information can be removed. Be especially skeptical if someone offers to provide you with a different tax identification number or social security number. That’s illegal, and it doesn’t work.
The government doesn’t telephone people, send unsolicited emails or texts, or contact people on social media offering free grants. If this happens to you, it’s a scam. They’ll ask you for your bank account number (for direct deposit), your social security number (for tax purposes), or other personal information. The government makes grants to meet specific goals. They are awarded primarily to states, cities, schools and non-profit organizations. Grants to individuals are typically for school expenses or disaster relief. You’ll need to complete an application to prove you’re eligible for the grant, and you’ll typically work with a financial institution to disburse the funds. Also, beware of companies that offer information on government grants for a fee. This information is free, and you don’t have to surrender personal information to acquire it.
Beware if you receive a letter, email or phone call claiming you owe money on a debt that you don’t recall incurring. The notification will stress that you need to pay up to avoid serious consequences. Sometimes, in cases where you actually do have an outstanding loan, the scammers will claim you owe much more in fees and interest than is actually the case. They often demand payment immediately by wire transfer or pre-paid gift cards. If you receive one of these calls and you are unsure if you have this debt, hang up and call the creditor directly.
Paying for college is stressful, and thieves know it. They have developed scams that target students and their families during this challenging time. If you are contacted by a company offering to locate scholarships for a fee, be suspicious, especially if they guarantee you’ll receive scholarship money. No search service can make that guarantee. A legitimate search service will be willing to provide a written explanation of how they work, including their refund policy if you don’t receive a scholarship award. Or, even better, do your own scholarship search. Ask your high school or college guidance counselor for help, search the internet, or check out the resources at collegeparents.org.
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