Watch Out for Scholarship Scammers Who Promote Exclusive Access or Expertise for a Small Fee
Many people get taken advantage of while trying to avoid student loans with scam scholarships
College tuition has risen by more than twice the national inflation rate over the past twenty years. With the cards stacked against them, it's no wonder that college students are scrambling to find free money that will pay for as much of their education as possible. Scammers know just how important scholarships are and use the promise of this free money to scam students of what little they have left.
Scholarship Scammers don't have exclusive info
Scammers hit students through mail, email, online ads and even by phone with pitches about scholarships in much the same way a salesman works. They like to pitch supposedly exclusive information that you can't find anywhere else, making a deal with them seem like the right thing to do. The catch is that you have to pay the scammers for their 'expertise' in dealing with this information. The truth is that there is no exclusive access to information about scholarships. Scholarships are posted freely across the Internet and request applicants to apply. You should never pay anyone for their expertise in this area.
Red Flags of a Scam
- Scholarships that have an "application" or "processing" fee attached;
- Free seminars offering financial aid advice when not provided by well-known and reputable organizations, which often turn out to be high-pressure sales pitches about investments, annuities, and insurance products; and
- Rewards without entry, such as a postcard or email saying you've won a scholarship that you didn't apply for.
Phrases that suggest a Scam
- "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
- "You can't get this information anywhere else."
- "We'll do all the work. You just pay the processing fee."
- "The scholarship will cost some money."
Scams sometimes make it to legitimate lists
Even the best and most reputable scholarship sites sometimes mistakenly list scam scholarships. There are more than 1.5 million scholarships available for college students. If you're one of them, make sure you know what to look for so that no one will take your money or sell your personal information. Remember these tips when you evaluate potential scholarships:
- Look for numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes. If the page seems like a bad translation or like it was written by someone who doesn't know English well, it's probably a scam.
- Examine the rest of the website where details about the scholarship are located. Is it poorly written?
- Real scholarships always have a phone number and a physical business address attached to them, not a P.O. Box.
- Is the organization's social media updated often? Does it post its own content or does it mainly take from other organizations? Has it posted anything about the scholarship?
- Some legitimate scholarships do request that you send your application by email. If you're considering this, make sure the organization is legit before you provide any personal information at all.
REPORT ALL SUSPECTED SCAMS
If you suspect that you are dealing with a scammer, you first need to stop all contact. Hang up the phone, don't reply to text messages or emails, and don't reply to mail.
If you suspect a scam, report it to the North Carolina Attorney General's Office. If you live outside North Carolina, report it to your state's Attorney General. You can also submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is co-sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).