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Every year thousands of students eager to get some extra money to pay for their college tuition are fooled by scholarship scams.
Luckily, there are warning signs. Follow these 10 tips to help you avoid scholarship scams:
Be wary if a scholarship organization asks for money. Whether it’s an “application fee,” “processing fee” or “insurance fee,” chances are it is a scam. Other fee-related phrases used by scholarship scams include “origination fee,” “default fee,” “advance fee” and “guarantee fee.”
A legitimate scholarship organization is unlikely to ask for money. If you have to pay, it is probably a scam.
A scholarship organization is not necessarily legitimate just because it has a word like “national,” “foundation” or “federal” in the name. Many scholarship scams include these terms to trick you into thinking the “sponsor” is a real organization that will help you pay for college costs.
They may even include a fancy seal or Washington, DC address on their documents to make you believe it is a federal agency.
Don’t fall for these traps! Make sure you research the organization to avoid scholarship scams.
Many scholarship scams originate in the states of Florida and California, so beware of unknown companies with addresses in these states. Obviously, many organizations in these states offer legitimate scholarships as well. As always, do your research.
Some scholarship scams try to masquerade as charitable organizations in order to appear trustworthy.
Even if an organization has words like “fund” or “foundation” in the name, it may not be a legitimate charity. Again, do your research.
Never give out bank account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information. If a scholarship organization asks for this kind of personal data, it may be a scam.
A legitimate scholarship organization will notify you via snail mail (although it may contact you by phone or email in addition to a written letter). Sometimes scholarship scams will call to tell you that “you’ve won!” and in the excitement of the moment extract money from you.
If organizations contact you about scholarships, find out how they got your name.
The College Board releases mailing lists with students’ PSAT or SAT scores to a very select list of colleges, universities and nonprofit foundations.
However, sometimes scholarship scams manage to find out information like your SAT scores and feed it back to you in order to appear legitimate.
If you receive information from an organization saying you have won a contest that you never entered, it is a scam. You don’t win a real scholarship unless you actually find and apply for a scholarship contest.
We can’t stress this enough: Look up information about the company sponsoring the scholarship. Do they have a website? Is there a listed telephone number? A real organization should always have a listed telephone number.
Be cautious, especially if characteristics of scholarship scams are apparent. Familiarize yourself with the possible signals of scholarship scams (like a “guarantee fee”) and stay critical. Trust your instincts.
If you are uneasy or uncertain about a scholarship contest, find out more. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you know the warning signs, you can avoid scams and spend your time applying for legitimate scholarships!