Beware of Scholarship and financial aid scams! The Federal Trade Commission reports on scholarship scams: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/education/scholarships.shtm and with this list, you can spot other scams. There are a few details these scams have in common:
Seminars: Students and parents are invited to seminars for high-pressure sales tactics which amp up the fear and confusion about simple application processes. Some of the common titles or keywords used by scammers include official sounding names such as “Federal,” “National,” “Foundation,” and “Administration.” These seminars are often done by insurance and financial service providers as a way to pitch their products. The truth about scholarships is that the best results come to those who do the work—and the work really isn’t that hard. Many students panic about their writing skills without realizing that most scholarships focus more on content than composition.
Too much information: You have to give a lot of information when applying to anything—but some requests are really going too far. They do need your contact information, but it’s typically a scam if they ask for:
- Social Security Number
- Mother’s maiden name
- Your place of birth (and anything else that may be a common website challenge question/answer)
Paid service: Application fees and other fees (or a request for your credit card number/bank account number) to “hold your spot” are not part of a legitimate scholarship. Scholarships exist to give you money—not to take it from you! Other scam fees include disbursement fees, processing fees, and taxes. Another common trait of paid services…
Guarantees: Any service that guarantees an award is almost always a guarantee that it’s a scam! No one can predict who will apply, what their qualifications are, and who will be selected.
The ONLY source for information: They don’t have access to special information that isn’t already available for free. Special access to unclaimed money is another common claim—of course there are unclaimed millions from year to year. There are many unusual scholarships that are so odd that no one is eligible due to the stringent requirements.
We’ll do all the work: A scholarship application requires information that you would need to give to someone else who would write the essay or complete the forms. Why not do it yourself? Such services make the application process sound like it’s more difficult than it really is. It’s hardly any more difficult than giving the information to someone else to do the application for you. Also, if you receive a scholarship but prove to be unworthy in any way, the scholarship will be revoked and you will owe any amounts you’ve used.
Congratulations!: “You’ve been selected by a National Foundation…” Scammers contact you to let you know you’ve won a scholarship for which you never applied. Gaining your trust inevitably leads back to getting access to your bank account or taking personal information which can be used to steal your identity.
Scholarships are awarded on a yearly basis. It’s important to be self-sufficient because the whole process starts again the next year.
Scams are found in other services in financial aid. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) preparation services exist—and they receive numerous complaints! The preparation services scare parents into thinking the FAFSA is too complicated. When all the information is gathered ahead of time, it’s just a matter of data entry. Most preparation services charge about $100 per year/per student. (The operative word in FAFSA’s title is “free!”) When parents find out how easy the FAFSA really is, they usually become rather upset to find they’ve been swindled. Also, if you fill out the FAFSA online, it keeps your previous information. Then, you just have to change anything that’s changed from the previous year. With multiple children, you can save a lot of time and money. Another issue with FAFSA preparation services—do you really want to hand over so much information? (Scams with CSS PROFILE forms are rare—but it’s in your best interest to complete it yourself, if required.)
As part of Career Prep Academy’s service, students develop and learn about their strengths, skills, and goals. “Scary” steps such as selecting a college and major course of study as well as applying for scholarships are made easier. When a student knows him/herself well and is confident with their abilities, they can write more convincingly about why they are worthy of a scholarship. To get the edge, call Career Prep Academy at 317-641-4677 to schedule a consultation.