Bad and Good News for College Students

PHOTO: College graduates are silhouetted at sunset as they line up to receive their diplomas during a graduation ceremony in Santa Monica, Calif., June 11, 2013.Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
College graduates are silhouetted at sunset as they line up to receive their diplomas during a graduation ceremony in Santa Monica, Calif., June 11, 2013.

I recently received two dispatches about college students, one full of gloom and one of cheer, both worth passing along. Let’s begin in the dark and move to the light.

Student Loan Scams

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling contacted me with word that college student loan scams are rampant. The NFCC said to watch out for these warning signs:

1. Websites that end in .com instead of .gov.

Fakes often mimic the names of legitimate sites, but with one twist, like the end of the URL. All of the Department of Education’s legitimate student loan webpages end in .gov.

2. Emails encouraging student loans or consolidations.

The government doesn't send out such emails, but questionable companies do.

3. Urgency to “act now.”

Scammers often press you to act now or make a quick decision on a “special offer” or you might “lose out.” Legitimate student loans don’t have fast deadlines.

Now on to the happier news for college students, something that will save them money, in fact. Just be sure you’re up to date on the loans above, before you take one of the trips below.

Student Rail Discounts

This glimmer of good news came from my pals at Amtrak, and, coincidentally, I’m writing about it as I ride an Amtrak train from New York to Washington!

Amtrak is offering a new 15 percent student discount to students ages 17 to 25. Students who provide a valid student ID and book three days in advance on amtrak.com and can get discounted travel to about 500 destinations nationwide.

You can add this to my previous list of great discounts for college students. I know there are even more. Share yours in the comments section below.

Elisabeth Leamy is a 20-year consumer advocate for programs such as "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please share your ideas with her via Facebook, Twitter or her website.

Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.