College scholarships and important new recommendations on creating passwords: Internet ScamBusters #190
Today we focus on scams related to college scholarships. Plus, we have something VERY valuable for everyone: important new recommendations on creating passwords. Strong recommendation: don't skip this.
The main article in today's issue is especially useful to parents and students interested in college scholarships. If you know anyone applying to college this year who would benefit from a college scholarship, we recommend you share this issue with them.
In summary, here's what you'll find in today's issue:
- College scholarships: What you don't know CAN hurt you.
- Important new recommendations on creating passwords.
Let's get started...
College scholarships: What you don't know CAN hurt you
College tuition isn't exactly cheap and thousands of students depend on college scholarship programs to help ease the financial burden of a great education.
Unfortunately, there are some who are more than willing to take advantage of students eager to obtain scholarship funds.
If you don't want to get ripped off by one of the many college scholarship scams, there are some things you need to know.
Two years ago we wrote an article with nine tips on avoiding scams related to college scholarships -- we recommend you check it out first.
Here is some additional advice -- the first item is so important we're repeating it now:
1. Don't Pay To Apply
If you have to pay to apply for a scholarship, chances are it's a scam. Many of the people operating college scholarship scams will claim that the fee is to cover administrative costs.
Scholarship scams have charged application fees ranging from two dollars to five thousand dollars.
It may seem like a two-dollar application fee isn't much to ask for, but think about this: if five thousand people apply for a $1,000 scholarship and send in two dollars each, the people running the scholarship scam get $10,000 and only have to give $1,000 of it away -- putting $9,000 in their pocket. So who's really winning?
Action: If anyone asks you to pay any up-front fee to apply, look elsewhere for your college scholarship needs.
2. High-Pressure Tactics
If anyone tries pressuring you into a scholarship, run in the other direction. There is no reason for high-pressure tactics if the college scholarship opportunity is legit.
Action: Hang up if the contact is via phone, walk away in person, or delete the email.
3. Verification by Phone
If someone calls you telling you that you've been selected to receive a scholarship and then proceeds to ask for money or personal information, don't take the bait.
If you are selected to receive a scholarship, you'll be notified in writing, not over the phone.
Action: Never give personal information out over the phone unless you initiate the call and you are convinced it is legitimate.
4. Get a Second Opinion
If there's a scholarship opportunity you are interested in but you aren't sure whether or not it's legitimate, get a second opinion.
Action: Your high school counselor or the financial aid administrator at a local college should be able to lend you professional advice about college scholarships.
5. If It Sounds Too Good To Be True...
You've heard it since you were a child (and many times from us) -- if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Action: Make sure you apply that advice whenever considering a scholarship opportunity and if you feel that any scholarship opportunity seems fishy, pass it by.
Important new recommendations on creating passwords
Security experts have recently made some new recommendations about how to create your passwords.
Fascinating point: these recommendations are based on the fact that it is now possible for experts to crack a Windows password with up to 15 characters in just one second!
So, here are some suggestions:
- Whenever possible, make your password at least 16 characters long.
- Many systems allow you to use spaces in your passwords. If so, use a "pass phrase" rather than just a password. A pass phrase can be easier to remember, and it's harder to guess. (Windows, OSX and Linux all allow spaces and pass phrases.)
- Use numbers and symbols in your passwords and pass phrases. Use capital letters in the middle of words.
- Use words, numbers and phrases you can remember easily, but others cannot guess. Never use a word in the dictionary in any language.
- Don't use the same password everywhere -- use different passwords for different systems.
- Change your passwords regularly. In fact, now would be a great time to change your passwords. 😉
Time to wrap up for today -- have a great week!