Home Financial Aid Tips Five Tips to Avoid Falling for Online Scams
Five Tips to Avoid Falling for Online Scams

Five Tips to Avoid Falling for Online Scams


By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS  

A growing trend in cybercrime is coaxing people into providing confidential personal information which criminals use to obtain your identity, your money or both.

In higher education, crooks use stolen identities to enroll in online universities, take out student loans and then withdraw from the school. The victim is left with the debt amassed by the criminal.

Here are five tips to avoid becoming a cybercrime victim:

  1. Watch for suspicious emails and advertisements. “Phishing” is an online scam that involves a hyperlink in an email or advertisement. When you click on the link or ad, it downloads a virus on your computer, allowing a criminal to steal your confidential information. Be aware that these online scams often appear in the guise of a reputable person or business you may know.
  1. Under no circumstance should you ever provide your personal information to a source you do not trust or that looks suspicious. Your Social Security Number (SSN) is needed for very few transactions. It should be provided only to trusted organizations (Department of Education, the DMV or your doctor’s office, for example).
  1. Be careful of online posts that could be disguised scams. Legitimate assistance sites like Craigslist can serve a useful purpose. However, criminals on these sites often persuade vulnerable people to provide confidential information in return for the promise of employment, home repair recommendations or mortgage reduction assistance. These posts are online scams.
  1. Always remember that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is free. Other than your college’s financial aid office, you will never need a third party to help you fill out a FAFSA. If you are approached by someone online offering FAFSA application “services” for a fee, do not respond. This is a scam.
  1. Always consult trusted resources before providing any sensitive personal information. A financial aid advisor at your school is a great resource if you have a question about the legitimacy of any request for your personal information.

Unfortunately, most victims of cybercrime are not well off financially. Individuals who are most vulnerable to this type of crime are those who feel desperate, confused and/or anxious about their financial situation. No matter what financial circumstances you are in, never fall for online scams.