State officials: 20-somethings are not immune to fraud

MADISON -- College students never get scammed, right? Wrong. In fact, younger people who reported scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2017 lost money significantly more often than older consumers.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) asks college students to study up on common scams, recognize the risks they present, and learn about ways to stay protected.

A news release says many young people believe they are safe from scams because they are more web-savvy than older consumers. But officials say con artists still hit victims hardest by phone (70% of 2017 fraud reports to the FTC involved contacts by phone). Younger consumers need to be on the lookout for unexpected contacts and solicitations and should be aware of "imposter scams:" threatening calls that claim to come from government agencies or well-known businesses (often utilities and tech companies) demanding money or personal information. Students may want to consider downloading a call-blocking app on their phone in order to limit these contacts.

Some of the red flags that are common among many scam operations include:

  • Requests from strangers for personally identifiable information. Never share sensitive information in an unsolicited phone call or in response to an unsolicited email or text message.
  • Requests for wire transfers. Never wire money to someone you don't know.
  • Requests for payment by prepaid debit or gift card. Be extremely suspicious of requests to make payments using prepaid debit cards or store gift cards, and remember that government agencies and utilities will never request payment by iTunes or Google Play gift cards.
  • Requests for you to cash a check on their behalf. If a stranger asks you to cash a check and send them back a portion, the check is fake and you will be on the hook for the full amount and any associated fees when the bank discovers the fraud.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at datcp.wi.gov or contact the Consumer Protection Hotline.