With the rising costs of tuition and college expenses, scholarships can offer much-needed financial help when paying for college. Unfortunately as many legitimate scholarships as there are, there are also many scams and fake scholarship sites that are out to scam people.
Dont Get Scammed
Scholarships are “free money,” so you should never have to pay money to get them. There are several scams and cases of identity theft that happen when people trust companies who claim to offer scholarships when if fact, they are only out to steal your money or identity.
Tips on How to Recognize Scholarship Scams
Don’t be a victim! Some companies may appear to be legitimate and may use high-pressure sales pitches to talk you into supplying your personal information or paying for scholarships or loans. Some things to keep in mind when applying for a scholarship…
If a Sponsor or Company Asks for Money or Personal Financial Information
Legitimate scholarship providers do not require “upfront fees” or “application fees”. Never give out your banking, credit card information or social security number when applying for a scholarship.
Note: This is different than member-only scholarships where the organization or club may require a membership fee in order to apply or be eligible to receive scholarships. If you do decide to become a member, research the organization beforehand to make sure they are legitimate.
If Someone Says that They Can GUARANTEE You a Scholarship
Never fall for scams that supposedly “guarantee” scholarships or loans if you pay a fee or service fee. There is no such thing as a guaranteed scholarship. They may often claim that you will “miss an opportunity” if you don’t pay money or provide your banking information. If you see a company with this claim, it is a scam.
Look for Red Flags
The Federal Trade Commission cautions students to look and listen for these tell-tale lines:
The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
“You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
“I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
“We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
“The scholarship will cost some money.”
“You’ve been selected” by a “national foundation” to receive a scholarship – or “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.
To learn more about Scholarship Scams:
Federal Trade Commission – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0082-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams
Better Business Bureau BBB – https://www.bbb.org/en/us/article/news-releases/16922-bbb-tip-scholarship-scams
Federal Student Aid – an office of the U.S. Department of Education – https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/scams
To report a scam:
File a complaint with Fraud.org – a project of the National Consumers League
Fraud.org collects complaints from consumers on their secure form and shares it with a network of 100 law enforcement partners across the U.S. and Canada. Complaints to Fraud.org are also transmitted to the Federal Trade Commission.
Federal Trade Commission Complaint Assistant – https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
Contact your Attorney General – http://www.naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php
Report identity theft:
If you suspect that your student information has been stolen, it is important to act quickly. These offices will help you determine what steps to take depending on your situation:
U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline