As part of their higher education pursuit, many students look for scholarships to help them with the cost of school. If you’re one of these students, make sure you’re scholarship shopping smartly! As with everything, scammers have found ways to promote “scholarships” that end up costing – rather than awarding – you money.
But you can outwit them if you know what to look for! Here are a few things that should tip you off:
- Scholarships that require an application fee. Legitimate scholarships are free to any qualifying applicant – fees like this could be shady.
- Guaranteed scholarships. No organization or person should guarantee this since scholarships are competitive and awarded to the best-fitting applicant(s). Be especially wary if this is coupled with a fee that can supposedly be returned if you don’t get the scholarship – the conditions for fee return generally make this impossible.
- Exclusive information. Between the Internet, books, libraries and school financial aid offices, scholarship information is widely and readily available – not a secret.
- Promises to do all the work. You and/or your parents alone should be responsible for completing all the materials needed for your scholarship application.
- Requests for a credit card or bank account number. Tread carefully with anyplace requesting direct access to your finances – claims to need this information to hold a scholarship are not legit.
- Scholarships requiring a redemption fee. If you’re told you need to pay to redeem a scholarship prize that you didn’t submit a request for, run the other way! Sometimes this scam also involves an actual exchange – if you receive a scholarship check for more than the amount stated with a request that you send back a check for the difference, you’re likely dealing with a fraud. These “scholarship checks” ed.
- Advance-fee loans. Offers for a low-interest loan that requires an up-front cost are scams. Real loans deduct from the disbursement check itself – you can consult your bank manager for advice on authenticity.
These are some of the many, constantly evolving, ways students are taken advantage of every day. If you want to read up on other scams or look into a scholarship you think might be a hoax, visit www.FinAid.org, the Better Business Bureau or the government’s FAFSA site. They can help make sure you don’t get ripped off!