The start of another school year can also mean back-to-school scams.Fake modeling agencies may set up at shopping malls or hotels to attract students looking for a well-paying after-school hobby. Scammers pressure kids by saying only a select few will be chosen, who then are urged to pay for portfolios, an initial photo shoot, or contract fees – after which, the scammers leave town.
Club memberships can be another type of scheme.They may offer a great trial membership with low prices on perfectly legitimate books, DVDs or CDs, but then students must have a minimum level of purchases to avoid penalties or fees; or their checking accounts might be debited with unexpected charges.
Maria Audas, with the South Carolina Consumer Affairs Department, suggests watching for certain signs when getting involved in these activities.
“A lot of them have one thing in common and that is upfront fees. Whether it’s a scholarship scam or a modeling agency scam, a lot of them are looking for an upfront fee before they disappear. If you didn’t ask for it, you don’t have to pay. Always read the fine print and always do your research whether or not you think it’s a suspicious activity or company.”
According to the website finaid.org, students are defrauded out of an estimated $100 million every year in scholarship and student aid schemes. Audas advises that young people and adults avoid unsolicited offers, don’t trust verbal promises, get it in writing. Audas says you should also keep records of all documents and conversations, do your “homework” and research companies, and ask lots of questions.
“Do they have a history of recipients? have they guaranteed other people scholarships? You can’t guarantee a person something before they apply. Are they asking for these fees?”
“For some of these other scams like book clubs and other memberships, you want to understand what you’re actually paying for. if there is a free trial, when does it run out? and am I automatically opted into a monthly payment plan?”