Beware the Scholarship Scam

Beware the Scholarship Scam

By Brandon

As you're figuring out how to pay for college, remember this wise old cliche: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

Tackling tuition bills can be pretty stressful, and many families feel desperate for help. Unfortunately, there are folks out there perfectly willing to take advantage of that desperation by offering scholarship guarantees. In most of these cases, however, the only guarantee is that you will lose time and money.

These operations, known as scholarship scams, often go like this:

You receive a letter in the mail stating that you have won a free scholarship (for a contest you never entered) or a free seat at a financial aid seminar (that you never heard of) and that since you are so deserving (which you are), you will be guaranteed to receive scholarship assistance (which you won't).

Then you figure, well, since it’s free, what harm is there in either going to the seminar or filling out the application? But then you notice the application requires a credit card number to verify your ID. Or at the end of the "free" seminar, the representatives tell you that in order to get access to all that scholarship money, you’ll need to pay a fee or get onto a payment plan. And as you can imagine, if you give up your money or credit card information, you’ve probably been taken.

In fact, so many people have fallen victim to these scholarship scams that the federal government has set up a web site to warn students and their families about them. Before responding to any unsolicited letters, phone calls, or emails, check out the scholarship scam information page at the Federal Trade Commission and learn the warning signs.

And if you think you’ve already been a victim, file a complaint here.

Do you have a question for Brandon? Email advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: financial aid, scams, tuition

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