If I had a dollar for every time I heard a parent say, “My kid is smart enough to get college scholarships,” I wouldn’t have to dip into my kid’s college fund to pay her bills at the University of Maryland.

The truth is that many smart kids won’t get nearly enough scholarship money to pay for the four, five or even six years they will spend in college. And for that matter, most students won’t get free money at all. So it’s no surprise that many college students are loaded down with loans.

Student loans are to young adults what mortgages were to many people during the housing crisis: too large and burdensome. And a new report found that education debt is crowding out many other forms of debt for young adults.

Student loans accounted for 36.8 percent of the total debt load for consumers ages 20 to 29 in 2014, up from the 12.9 percent reported in 2005, according to a report by TransUnion, The Washington Post’s Jonnelle Marte reported this week. The share of debt from mortgages shrank to 42.9 percent in 2014, from 63.2 percent in 2005, as the number of young people buying homes declined.

Here’s something else to consider from Marte’s report, which cited separate research from the Pew Research Center: “The biggest increase in student loan borrowing over the past 20 years happened among affluent families. Middle- to high-income families saw the biggest jump in the share of college graduates who borrowed to pay for school.”

Pew’s analysis also showed a sharp increase in student borrowing among graduates with highly educated parents.

So what’s behind the borrowing by higher-income families? In part, researchers think it’s the ability of those families to get access to federal loans.

From the Pew report, Marte noted: “Before the 1990s, federal Stafford loans were offered only to undergraduate students who needed financial help. But once unsubsidized Stafford loans were introduced, federal loans became available to all undergraduate students regardless of their financial need.”

All this data about debt should be a wake-up call for families who could save for college but don’t or haven’t put away enough money.

Color of Money Question of the Week

What do you think of the rise in education loans? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your full name, city and state. In the subject line, put “College Loans.”

Live chat today

Join me at noon Eastern time today for my weekly Q&A about money. If you have a personal finance issue that has been bugging you, ask away. Or just hang back and read what others are concerned about. I always learn something during the chats. You can join the conversation by clicking this link.

Driving away in debt

Sticking to the theme of debt, the New York Times has been running a series titled “Driven Into Debt” about the awful auto loans some people are being pushed into. Although many go willingly because their credit is so bad, they feel they have no other choice in their desperation for transportation.

The latest installment in the series by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery focused on “liar” auto loans. During the housing crisis, liar loans were mortgages obtained by borrowers who lied about their income or loan processors who falsified borrowers’ income on applications without their knowledge. Well, the same is happening with auto loans.

“Government authorities are now taking aim at a new generation of liar loans,” Silver-Greenberg and Corkery write. “Only this time it is subprime auto loans.”

The two write: “Federal and state authorities, a group that includes prosecutors in New York, Alabama and Texas, are zeroing in on the most powerful, and arguably the least regulated, rung of the subprime auto loan chain, used-car dealerships, according to people briefed on the investigations. Already, they have found hundreds of fraudulent loans that together total millions of dollars.”

Law enforcement officials are looking at whether dealerships are falsifying borrowers’ income or employment information on loan applications to ensure that their customers, even those with bad credit, can purchase a car, according to the Times.

As the reporters write: “Such inflated applications can mean that some of the most vulnerable borrowers are saddled with auto loans they can never afford to repay. The loans, which often come with interest rates that soar to 29 percent, can haunt borrowers long after their cars are repossessed.”

Fraudster ’fesses up

You have to watch a video uploaded by AARP titled “How Alice Conned Helen.” The names were changed and faces blurred, but it’s a sad story of how scammers scam.

“Nowadays, it’s all about technology. And if you know what you are doing then it’s easy for me to take over your life,” says “Alice” in the video. She stole millions as an identity thief.

Alice says she set up online accounts in her victim’s name and was able to redirect her mail and order credit cards. “I changed everything,” she says. “I was her, and she couldn’t prove I wasn’t.”

The key takeaway from the video for seniors or anyone is to establish your own online identity. If you set up the online accounts with your own answers to security questions, scammers have a tougher time accessing your information. But if they get to accounts first, they can change the information and lock you out.

Watch the YouTube video and be horrified. Then protect yourself.

In the latest issue of AARP magazine there’s an amazing story by Doug Shadel with more details on just how Alice took over her victim’s financial life and how she eventually got caught.

As I wrote in a recent column, a survey by AARP said many people aren’t doing enough to protect themselves from identity theft, which often is the endgame of computer attacks. People leave valuables in the car; they don’t activate the passcode feature on their smartphones, which can give thieves easy access to sensitive information stored on phones; they don’t check their credit reports, which could help spot identity theft early; or they use the same password on two or more accounts.

AARP has a Fraud Watch Network that lets users sign up to get scam alerts. Among other features of the site, you can read the latest fraud advisories from law enforcement officials and check out swindles profiled in local media. For more information, go to www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.