How to Avoid Common College Financial Aid and Scholarship Scams

How to Avoid Common College Financial Aid and Scholarship Scams


Particularly in the U.S., it’s hard for many college students to pay rising tuition costs. More and more students are becoming saddled with large amounts of debt after their bachelor’s degrees.

So imagine you get a call one day promising you $10,000 in college financial aid, if only you put your credit card information on hold. Or, imagine that someone promises you an enormous scholarship – if only you’ll attend a series of seminars on a given topic. Tempting, right?

In many cases, these scenarios are examples of common college financial aid scams and scholarship scams. Read on to learn about the telltale signs that you’re dealing with a scholarship scam and how to avoid them as you prepare to pay for your education.

The Signs of a College Financial Aid Scam

Underhanded college financial aid scams have common signs you should look out for.

For example, if someone calls, emails, or mails a letter to you out of the blue and says that you have won a financial aid contest you never entered, proceed with caution. If someone asks you for personal information over the phone or requires a fee in order to receive your scholarship funds, it’s most likely a scholarship scam.

At a seminar, make note of any outlandish claims, like total student loan forgiveness or a full scholarship. No scholarship should come with a “money-back guarantee” or require any fees or wire transfers before you can receive your funds.

Most importantly, take your time. Scholarship scammers will try to rush you into making a rash decision about giving out your personal information. No legitimate scholarship or financial aid program will do so.

How to Avoid and Report College Scholarship Scams

If anyone says they’re from a given organization, you should research the organization in detail to see if it’s legitimate. If it’s a real organization, contact them to find out more information. If it’s not, don’t go any further. Never give out any personal information before you are absolutely sure it’s necessary and that you’re dealing with a credible organization.

Remember, no actual scholarship funds will require you to pay fees, put your credit card information on file, or answer questions immediately while on the phone. In the vast majority of cases, moreover, scholarship “seminars” are clear-cut scams.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a scholarship scam, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) right away.