If you're in college or university, you're likely experiencing a lot of life milestones. Maybe you're living away from home for the first time. Or maybe you're having to do things you've never done before like cook for yourself or buy your own groceries. All those firsts can be exciting -- but amid these opportunities to gain new skills and independence, you might also find yourself the target of scams for the first time.

But just because scammers are targeting you, doesn't mean it's inevitable that you'll fall for their scams. Here's what you need to know to protect yourself:

What kinds of scams should you watch out for?

 It's critical to know what kinds of scams to be on the lookout for, says Sherry Kalantari, Senior Manager of Fraud Deterrence at Scotiabank.

One of the most common scams is an employment scam that use banks to take advantage of students.

“Students are offered a job where they're asked to collect money for a “company”, deposit cheques in their own bank accounts, and then send money to the company and keep a commission," says Kalantari. “But those cheques are fraudulent and students find out later that they didn't clear – leaving students out the funds that they sent back."

Another scam Kalantari has seen is where students are asked to open bank accounts and share their banking information, online credentials, bank cards and pins with the fraudsters. They offer students a few hundred dollars for each card - but then those cards are used to commit fraud that the student is responsible for. Unfortunately when this happens, since the student shared their financial information with others, they may be responsible for repayment.

Another scam that's been particularly prevalent lately is loan scams, which offer students a small initial loan in order for them to build trust with the company. Students will receive a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars and have to pay back a portion of it immediately. Once again, it ends up being a fraudulent transfer or cheque and students are out the money.

How can you protect yourself?

Did someone offer you a great opportunity that seems too good to be true? Maybe it's an amazing apartment that's being offered at below the market rate or a job offer you saw on Instagram? Before you jump on board, there's a few things you can do to make sure it's legit.

“If you see a job opportunity online, make sure that the company is a legitimate business and has valid contact information and a secure website. Don't trust an advertisement you find on social media before backing it up with your own research,” says Kalantari.

Does a company want to offer you a job over the phone or e-mail without meeting you in person? That doesn't typically happen and should sound alarm bells, says Kalantari. You should also walk away if anyone asks you to share your banking information with them or to use your bank account to deposit cheques for them.

If you're not sure if something constitutes fraud, you can always talk to your bank. “Talk to the branch because there's a lot of knowledge there that can assist you," says Kalantari.

Some scammers will advise students not to share the truth with their banks and that's another big red flag to look out for. If an opportunity is legitimate, it won't require you to lie to anyone.

What should you do if you get scammed?

If you've been the target of the scam, the most important thing you need to know is that you shouldn't beat yourself up

“It's an organized crime," says Kalantari. “Oftentimes they make it look very legitimate and it can be easy for anyone to fall for them. That's why all the banks have departments fighting fraud. If it does happen, it's a lesson and you have to make sure that you educate yourself around scams to ensure you don’t fall victim to them in the future."

Kalantari recommends that students report the scam – to their bank, to the authorities, to their schools, and even to the social media sites they found the opportunity on.

“There could be other people who are also being victimized or falling for the same scam," she says. “When's that's reported to the right people, you will help prevent it and help other people to protect themselves against fraud."

Can you get your money back?

Depending on the type of scam, you might be able to get your money back once you report it. But many scams require your active participation in them and that could violate your bank's terms of service and make you liable. That's why it's so important to try to avoid scams in the first place, says Kalantari.

By being vigilant and doing your due diligence around whether a company is legitimate, you'll save yourself from being a victim of scammers. This will give you more time to focus on the more important parts of student life, making lasting friendships and getting an incredible education to prepare for your future.

Want to check out more tips and tools for your upcoming school semester? Visit our Student Hub here.



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