Are you headed to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, or another European location for a term or more of college study? If so, it’s imperative to know the common scams that American students often run across during their time abroad. While the vast majority of college attendees studying outside the US never have any trouble with troublesome situations, there are the occasional con artists who hone in on well-meaning Americans in the hopes of scoring financial gains.
What are these ne’er-do-wells up to? Usually, they want you to transport illegal things back to the US for them, take part in a marriage so they can earn quick US citizenship, or participate in some kind of complicated money laundering scheme. There are all sorts of variations on the cons and scams, but if you’re aware of the common ploys, you’ll be able to protect yourself from trouble. Here are more details about the most frequent situations you could encounter.
Many want to find a fast, semi-legal way of earning US citizenship. Even in Western countries, there are women and men who will approach you with marriage proposals after knowing you only a short time. Unfortunately, some gullible students fall for the trick and end up in deep legal trouble after bringing a bride or groom back to the US when they return home. The US state department has many ways to discover such sham marriages, so be careful in accepting an offer of marriage from a newfound friend. Your red warning lights should immediately begin flashing if someone offers you a significant amount of money to get married.
Finance Your Education Before Going Abroad
It’s important to get all the financial details of your educational obligations taken care of before hopping on a plane and starting school. Legitimate educational programs will tell you to get everything paid in advance as a way of avoiding an interruption in your studies. Unfortunately, too many students don’t take out an education loan and assume they’ll be able to pay for their studies after they arrive. That plan is a recipe for chaos. The wise method, followed by many students in past years and decades, is to take out a student loan during the application and preparation phase while you’re still residing in the US. Check all the financial details about how much you’ll be paying for tuition, room, board, fees, etc. Be certain to explore the best private student loans so you won’t have any trouble covering the whole cost of your overseas term, whether it’s one semester, a summer, or an entire academic year.
Americans in Europe and the UK are targets of unscrupulous scam artists, so be aware that some of your new acquaintances could include such people. This doesn’t mean you need to become paranoid about friendly people. On the contrary, your overseas friends will be a good support system for you and help you avoid the very few con artists that do show up from time to time. By far, the most common ploy these nefarious types try to pull off is to ask you to carry a package for them when you return to the US. If you agree, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in deep trouble as you go through customs because those packages typically contain contraband materials.
Hard copies of US passports are like gold to counterfeiters and criminals who operate out of every European capital, London, and elsewhere. What do they want? Often, their goal is to steal your passport. In the more sophisticated schemes, they merely borrow the document for a day or two and make a high-quality duplicate of it. Beware of leaving your passport and other travel documents where unknown people can access them. That includes digital copies on your phone or on a laptop computer. Never lend your passport to a friend, no matter the excuse they give. If you ever lose your passport, report the situation to the local embassy immediately. These kinds of scams have been around for more than 100 years because US travel documents of all kinds, including special visas and entry permits, are favorites among counterfeit document rings that operate all over the world.
Law Enforcement Imposters
Beware of any law enforcement official that asks you for money, whatever the reason. Many imposters, even ones in authentic looking uniforms, target travelers and exchange students for quick cash. They accomplish their deeds by detaining you and telling you that you have broken an obscure law but are willing to release you for an immediate cash payment as a personal favor. Don’t believe it for a minute. If any law enforcement official asks for money, tell them you want to contact the US embassy or be taken to the local police station immediately. That usually causes them to give up the ghost and leave you alone.
Disclaimer: MoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence.