If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Many scholarship offers are not what they seem. Often referred to as "scholarship scams," they offer the "promise" of scholarship funding—for a small fee—and then steal your money. When looking for a scholarship, here are some tactics and claims to watch out for:
"For a small fee, you can access hundreds of exclusive scholarships."
Some companies may promise they have scholarship information that is not available anywhere else. And for a fee (ranging from $50 to $1,000), they will share it with you.
The fact is that these companies often use the same scholarship databases that you can use for free. Don't let them take your money.
You should NEVER have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship.
"We just need a credit card number to hold this scholarship for you."
Some companies may request a credit card or bank account number to "hold" a scholarship for you—a scholarship that you never applied for. They may say you won the scholarship in a sweepstakes or a contest and it remains unclaimed. But scholarships are not like sweepstakes…
If you have not applied for a scholarship, you are not likely to be a finalist for it.
NEVER give out your credit card or bank account information to secure a scholarship.
"Act now or lose this opportunity."
Some companies set up free scholarship or "financial planning" seminars as a way to disguise their real purpose: to promote various financial products, such as insurance. They usually end the seminar with a sales pitch to "act now or lose out on this opportunity." Don't be persuaded by the hard sell.
Legitimate organizations do not use pressure tactics to get you to make a purchase.
"Win a scholarship, guaranteed or your money back."
These scams promise you a scholarship and don't deliver. Then, when you try to get your money back, your refund request is denied. The reason for the denial? Perhaps you missed a "required" step or failed to meet an impossible-to-meet condition. Don't get duped.
Although there are more than 1.5 million scholarships available every year, a scholarship is never a sure thing.
Be suspicious of any scholarship offer if even one of the following is true:
- You must pay a fee (any fee) to apply for the scholarship.
- You must provide a credit card number or your bank or savings account information to apply for the scholarship.
- You don't need to do anything (or do very little) to apply.
- The offer "guarantees" that you will be given a scholarship.
- The offer includes no contact information, such as a valid email address, phone number, and mailing address (a P.O. Box doesn't count).
- You never applied for the scholarship.
- You must attend a free seminar to be considered for the scholarship.
- The offer includes official-sounding words like "national," "education," or "federal" or has an official-looking seal.
- The offer says there is millions in unclaimed scholarship money waiting for you.
- The offer is filled with typos and spelling errors. For example, "scholarship" is spelled "scholorship."
Want to Know More?
- Look for scholarships using the free scholarship search on FastWeb.
- For instructions on what to do if you get potentially fraudulent calls promoting "scholarship opportunities," visit the U.S. Department of Education website.
- Request literature about scholarship scams from the Federal Student Aid Information Center by calling 1-800-433-3243.
- If you've been the victim of identity theft regarding federal educational funds or your student information, contact the U.S. Department of Education.