What College-Bound Students and Parents Need To Know About Scholarships and Scholarship Scams:Internet ScamBusters #91

Today’s issue will be particularly useful to college-bound students and their parents, since we focus on scholarships and scholarship scams. If you know anyone who is applying to colleges this year, you might want to share this issue of ScamBusters with them.

But first, here’s something for everyone. We get asked a lot of questions, but two of the most common questions we’re asked are:

– Where can I report a scam?

– What should I do if I get scammed?

We have a page on the ScamBusters site that answers both these questions about dealling with fraud.

OK. Time to get started…

What College-Bound Students and Parents Need To Know About Scholarships and Scholarship Scams

A college education — your own or your child’s — is one of the most expensive undertakings you’ll ever commit to. And, for many people, it would be an impossible dream without the extra help of scholarships.

Unfortunately, the scholarship field is also riddled with unscrupulous operators and scams that have cost American consumers over $100 million annually.

Here are some things you need to know so you don’t get taken by scholarship scams:

Tips About Scholarships #1. You don’t have to pay any money to get scholarship money — not even an application fee. Legitimate scholarship sources will not need application fees, or ‘processing’ or insurance fees. Scammers, of course, will insist that you pay it up front. (There may be a few exceptions here, but they are rare.)

Note: There are legitimate companies that charge a fee for lists of potential scholarships you can apply for, or that offer to compare your profile with a database of scholarship opportunities. These companies do NOT promise you’ll win a scholarship.

Tips About Scholarships #2. You cannot ever be guaranteed to win a scholarship, and if a scholarship matching company or agency makes that claim — run! They don’t have any control over the decisions made by scholarship sponsors.

Some of these companies offer a money-back guarantee, but only if you apply to every scholarship on the list, which of course is ridiculous since you won’t qualify for many of them.

Tips About Scholarships #3. If the company claims that ‘everybody is eligible,’ be skeptical. Every scholarship has some sort of criteria. Some focus on academic or athletic ability, while others are for people from some specific location or demographic group.

Tips About Scholarships #4. ‘Unclaimed’ scholarships are rare. Most financial aid programs are actually highly competitive and have too many choices about who to give their money to.

Tips About Scholarships #5. If you are told that the agency will apply ‘on your behalf,’ it’s probably a scam. There is no way to avoid writing your own essays, getting your own reference letters, and submitting your own application.

Tips About Scholarships #6. When you see an ad or brochure with lots of ‘hype’ language, be especially wary. There is no need for legitimate scholarship sources to resort to intense sales pitches.

Tips About Scholarships #7. Bank account or credit card numbers are never necessary on a scholarship application — or in follow-up phone calls, for that matter. If you’re told you’re a ‘finalist’ but a fee is required, it’s almost certainly a scam.

Tips About Scholarships #8. Check for a phone number or legitimate mailing address on the information you’re given. Plus, don’t be fooled by a fancy name or a name that sounds like a government agency.

Tips About Scholarships #9. Did you originate the research or the contact? If not, it’s very likely a scam.

If you think you might be in contact with a scholarship scammer, do your homework. Ask for references, get a local telephone listing, and ask for lists of scholarships they’ve awarded.

For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s pages on scams about scholarships…


That’s it for now — see you next week.