It’s that time of year again…the time during which college students of all age seek out financial aid sources to help pay for college. While there are definitely many opportunities available, there are also many scammers that are looking to take advantage of unwary students. The scamming of college students is big business. So big, in fact, that the Motley Fool states that student aid scams bilk more than $100,000 a year from trusting individuals. Here are some of the more common financial aid scams to beware of:
Scholarship Search Fees
According to the official website of federal student aid, students should be very wary of sites that require students to pay for scholarship searches. Although there are some reputable companies that do deliver the results they promise, there are far more that are simply fishing for easy money. These unscrupulous sites use bad business practices such as high-pressure sales to get students and their parents to sign up and pay search fees. This is unnecessary, however, since students can easily conduct their own searches and find scholarships without paying fees to an outside party.
Charges for FAFSA Help
Most college students apply for federal student aid through the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. There are many commercial sites that offer to help students complete the FAFSA for a charge. Students should remember, however, that the first ‘F’ in FAFSA stands for FREE, because that is exactly what the FAFSA is. The official FAFSA site provides a wealth of detailed, easy-to-understand information on completing the form. If it is still difficulty, most schools will help students complete the form at no cost.
Scholarship Application Fees
Trustworthy scholarships organizations require no up-front fee to apply for scholarship money. They also rarely contact students at random through postal mail or e-mail. If you receive any correspondence naming you as a scholarship contest finalist and requesting a fee, you should immediately suspect fraud, according to the California Student Aid Commission. Also skip offers that request personal financial details such as credit card or banking numbers. Many of these requests lead to identity theft or unauthorized charges to your account.
It is a sad but true fact that many people look to make an easy living by scamming college students and their families. As a student, you cannot afford to spend on unnecessary services and expenses. Avoid these common financial aid scams and trust your instincts when seeking college funding. If an opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.