There is a saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of college scholarship programs, there are many programs out there that sound too good to be true because they are scams. Unfortunately, the scholarship scam business is BIG business.
Scholarship scammers will, for a fee, claim to provide you with information or guaranteed placement and usually from some secret, un-advertised program. In some cases they may help you find sources of financial aid for specific types of students but many of these scholarships have limited funds and applying does not guarantee receiving. For the record, scholarships do not ask students for money, they give students money.
With so much scholarship information available, it can seem overwhelming and difficult to tell the legitimate programs from the scams. There are some useful tips to help you identify these deceitful websites.
Scam pick-up lines:
- “There are millions of student aid dollars that sit, unclaimed every year!”
The dollars they are referring to are usually employee or member benefits and are only available to employees or family members of a specific company, union or organization.
- “You can’t find this information anywhere else!”
Yes, you can. Why pay a fee to find out information that you could get for free, by visiting your local library, college, education agency or internet?
- “Give us your credit card # or bank account information and we’ll hold your financial aid!”
When an organization asks for credit card or bank information up front, they are not to be trusted. In most cases, scholarship search services do not provide or disburse scholarship awards directly to students nor do they apply for them. Therefore, they would not be able to secure and hold financial aid for students. So, a good rule of thumb in your search is to never give your personal credit or bank information to anyone unless you are absolutely certain of the integrity and legitimacy of the organization.
- “Congratulations, you are a finalist in a scholarship contest!”
Scholarships are not run like a sweepstakes, they require applications and have deadlines.
Consider the following information and suggestions as a guide to your college scholarship research:
- Ask the scholarship service for references.
- Find out how many other students used that particular service and the scholarships they received.
- Learn about the service’s refund or customer satisfaction policy.
- Get written documentation of everything.
- Read everything very carefully and don’t forget the fine print!
- Scholarship money usually comes from the US government or non-profit organizations.