Consumer Corner: Students, watch out for scams as you head back to school

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

Often we highlight scams targeting senior citizens. While scam artists definitely still target senior citizens, there are other groups that scammers have their sights on. There are also a host of scams aimed at college students and graduates.

Door-to-door sales. Usually when we talk about door-to-door sales, it’s about how to avoid getting ripped off by someone at your door selling something. It’s also important to be cautious when a company approaches you about becoming a door-to-door salesperson. Several companies are known to target recent high school graduates and college students to do jobs as door-to-door salespeople. Often, they don’t disclose details in the job description until well into the recruitment process. Instead, they are often pitched to the student with phrases like “flexible hours” and “direct marketing.”

While there are legitimate companies who do sell products this way, before becoming involved with one, it’s important to do your homework. In particular, make sure their training includes compliance with all state and federal consumer protection laws, for example the three-day right to cancel and how to properly handle a customer’s personal information. A failure to be properly trained in these areas could leave you as the salesperson on the hook for violating state or federal law. Also, be sure the products you are being asked to sell are legitimate, genuine products. Our office has recently become involved in several cases involving counterfeit goods being sold, so it’s important to know that what you’re selling is what you say it is.

Student loan consolidation. After graduation, consolidating your student loans may be a good idea to save time and money. But beware. There are also scammers out there who will prey on recent graduates looking to save money on their loan payments. Some of these organizations use names that sound official and legitimate, but are not connected to the federal student loan programs. Make sure you’re dealing directly with your student loan lender or servicing company by calling the phone number or using the website printed on your student loan statement.

When considering consolidation, keep in mind that it may not save you money. Consult with your college’s financial assistance office if you’re unsure of your options. You should never have to pay an upfront fee for loan consolidation. If you get asked for one – that’s a good sign it’s a scam. Also, beware of any consolidation offer that advises you to stop making payments or to stop communicating with your current loan servicer. Stopping payments, even when a consolidation is in process, could leave you liable for late fees and damage your credit rating.

If you’ve been a victim of one of these scams, report it to the Consumer Protection Division by filing a complaint online at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling 800-432-2310.


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