Higher education is expensive and is costing more and more every year, making scholarships a lifesaver for students looking to further themselves educationally. They can help offset the cost of tuition, room and board, or even just textbooks and school supplies. Applying for and being granted these funds is great, but with much in life, there is a chance for risk. In the hunt for scholarships, it’s easy to come across fraud. Scholarship scams are a form of fraud where the scam promises to provide college scholarships, at times leaving vulnerable students with less than they started with. Below are some key indicators to keep an eye out as you apply for scholarships.
The first warning sign is if you are being charged an application fee. Scholarships should be free to apply for. If there is a fee, it is unlikely that you will get a return on your investment. The people posting the scholarship are unlikely to return communication and the applicant is likely to lose their money.
Send them money
If an organization tells you the check they sent was for too much and requests that you send the difference back to them, that is a red flag. This is a common tactic used in scams, and unfortunately is seen in scholarships as well. If this happens, request that they cancel the check and send a new one for the proper amount. They may insist that there is not enough time, however a false sense of urgency is another scam risk indicator. Additionally, it’s important not to cash a check until you are 100% certain it is not fraudulent, as this can lead to fines from your financial institution.
Asking too much information
Another piece to look out for is if an application is asking for excessive personal information. This can include your Social Security number, credit card number as well as your financial institution routing and account numbers. Legitimate scholarships will not ask for this information and you should be skeptical if they do.
Other key indicators to be wary of include scholarships you did not apply for. If they say you won, but did not apply, it is likely an attempted fraud. Additionally, if there are spelling or grammatical errors in the written communication, think twice before giving them your information.
Ask for help
At the end of the day, scholarships are an amazing resource for students to offset the expense of college, and as you’re applying for them, keep in mind these tips to look out for. If you’re ever unsure, reach out for help. Your guidance counselors, financial aid office, and academic advisors have likely seen this before and can help to guide you in the right direction.