Unfortunately, thousands of families fall victim to “scholarship scams” each year.
Paying for college is stressful enough; finding reliable scholarships shouldn’t be.
We want to ensure that your family and your money are protected from scholarship scams during your search. Here are five pieces of advice to avoid the most common scams.
1. Never pay money to get money.
Scholarships that ask for payments, have fee requirements, or make you send money to claim are most definitely a scam. You should never have to pay money, especially if they ask for cash upfront, in order to get free money. Make sure there are no search fees or “free” seminars. Do not pay to receive a list of scholarships. All of that information should be available for free.
2. Do not provide personal financial information.
If a scholarship asks you for your Social Security number, checking account, or credit card information, they are not a credible and reliable source.
3. Sweeping claims.
You know how the saying goes: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Companies who say they will do all the work for you are lying. Applying for scholarships takes work on your end and have questions that cannot be answered by anyone else. If they say money is guaranteed, that you’ll get your money back, or that your scholarship will cost you money, they are fake. Check to make sure they are not a fake nonprofit or claim to have federal status even if they do not.
4. Do your research.
Scholarships are awarded to students who fit a certain set of criteria, so avoid ones that say they are open to everyone. Make sure the scholarship or company has a phone number; if they do not, it usually means they are fake, because phone numbers are easy to track and verify. Find proof of previous winners of a particular scholarship. Read the fine print to make sure the company is not just selling your information.
5. Make sure you’ve applied before you accept a scholarship out of the blue.
If you receive a notice that you won a scholarship you did not apply to, it is a scam and they are trying to get financial information from you to steal.
Remember to be safe as you embark on your search for college funds.
The most safe and secure way to get money for college is to file the FAFSA® (and the easiest way to file FAFSA® is with Frank). Good luck!