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College students beware of 'card cracking' scam

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College students new to beware of a new scam known as "card cracking." It could trap you in unexpected debt.

Here's how it works: Someone contacts a student via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and sets up a deal.  That person tells the victim, "Let me use your debit account to deposit a check and I'll give you half the money I deposit." 

If the victim agrees, there's often a deposit in the bank  account, followed swiftly by a withdrawal.

"The victim thinks that they are going to get a portion of that deposited item, but they never do," explained Assistant Inspector in Charge Vic Demtschenko.

When the deposit turns out to have been a counterfeit check, the deposit evaporates and the victim is on the hook for any money withdrawn from the account.  The scam is not just spreading on social media, inspectors say scammers are also soliciting victims at college campus parties.

"They'll demonstrate they have a lot of money, they will throw wads of cash around and act in that manner to try and entice people to give up their ATM cards," Demtschenko said.

Ring leaders target college students  because they think they can be easily convinced that their only role is to allow use of their account - and that they will get to keep half of the money.

"Early 20's, maybe a little less mature, and don't really understand the banking system and may need a way to get some money, they may be college students for example or young adults that need cash," added Demtschenko.

But victims are not just depositing the fake checks. They are giving scammers access to their bank accounts.  Unfortunately, there are many different versions of the crime.

"There are in some instances where young adults thought that they were applying for a college grant and in reality they were being asked to provide their debit cards," said Demtschenko.

While most people might find it hard to believe anyone would hand over their ATM information, inspectors say many students are often naive about finances.

"When you go off directly to college from high school that is a big transition from you know being under your parent's roof to potentially going out to a college campus as an 18 year old with very little life experience and almost no knowledge of the banking system," warned Demtschenko.

There are many long term effects including years of credit score problems in the future.

"Employers aren't going to look very kindly upon someone that's involved in a criminal scheme," Demtschenko added.

Authorities say it's important for parents to advise their college-age students  how to protect their personal information while they are at school.

"They need to keep their debit cards in their wallets or in their purses, and never relinquish control of it, because only bad things can happen if you do that - if you give it to a stranger - you are opening up a whole Pandora's box of potential problems," Demtschenko warned.

Experts say parents should also tell their college-age students to never allow strangers access to their bank accounts for any reason. ATM Cards and campus ID's that often double as ATM card, along with PIN's, need to stay private. Use hard-to-guess PIN's on all accounts and do NOT autofill passwords on mobile devices or computers.