It’s that time of year again when scammers are actively looking for more victims. This time they are not trying to get your username and password nor but are targetting people who are applying for college scholarships.
I am currently being inundated with emails from various colleges around the USA offering us FULL RIDE scholarship (for non-Americans, this means 100% paid or College).
This is great, right? Not when its scholarships from colleges we didn’t apply for AND they need a “processing fee” – now this is where I get suspicious!
Many parents and students do everything in their power to reduce the tuition fee and this is where scholarships help. So how does one know which organizations and institutes are legitimate vs the ones to stay away from?
10 tips to avoid getting scammed:
1. No Contact Information: Legitimate institutions will have not just a website address, but also a physical address and a telephone number. Head over to Google Maps, and check.
2. Cash to Apply: If you are asked to send a check or pay via credit card for some sort of “scholarship application fee”, this is your a big oh-oh moment.
3. It’s guaranteed: If the application form guarantees you a scholarship or acceptance to college, then be suspicious. Institutions are inundated with forms, there is no way they can guarantee that each person will receive funds.
4. Social Security Information/ Banking Info: some forms may try to convince you that they need a copy of your social security number, ID, passport and banking information. Beware. While some financial information may be required, this is certainly not sent when simply applying.
6. FAFSA FEE vs. FREE: FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. There are no fees to apply for this under any circumstances and some website charge an “administration fee” or a “handling fee”. Click away immediately. The ONLY site you should go to is FAFSA application.
7. EVERYONE gets one: Scholarships are typically awarded based on specific requirements. There are those for new immigrants, those for academic merits, those for sports, those based on financial needs, those based on geographic location etc. etc. Therefore I get concerned when there is an email saying “it’s for everyone and every circumstance”
8. We Apply For You: Some scams play on the fact that applying for scholarships takes a lot of work, so for a small fee, they will apply on your behalf and even write the college essays! Needless to say, this is NOT a good idea.
9. Exclusive Information: No one institute will have exclusive info from a college that will guarantee the applicant will be accepted to that college. Anyone advertising this is their selling point is running a scam.
10. Residence Deposit: A bonus scam is one that claims that to secure a place in residence, a holding deposit must be paid. While some colleges do require a deposit, this is only AFTER the student has been accepted not during an application phase.
Google is your friend
Google is your best tool. If you are unsure, do a google search for that institutes’ name, for contact information on the form, for people’s names. Look for reviews and warning of signs of scams – odds are pretty good that if someone was scammed, they told everyone about it.
Head over to the company’s website and check that the telephone numbers match. Look up the telephone number and call the company to verify that they do in fact send out scholarship emails and ask for the domain name that emails should come from. @Gmail.com or @Yahoo.com are not to be trusted as they are open to abuse.
So in summary:
It is best to remember the golden rule “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Applying and getting scholarship takes time and dedication and there is no “simply click here” type of solution. While each state will have systems that will assist parents and students, be wary of those that demand money upfront.
If you use PayPal, be aware of these PayPal scams