If it Costs Money to Win A Scholarship, Think Again

January 10th, 2012

While the cost of tuition is going through the roof, it’s not surprising that students are looking for any help they can get to finance the college dream.

Scholarships, grants, and aid programs are usually designed to legitimately help students get an education for a little less cash.  But watch out for the scammers out there who promise to give you money for college, but only end up emptying your piggy bank.

Example – USA Scholarship Scam

Congratulations! You have been selected by the USA Scholarship to receive this offer to apply for 2010/2011 scholarship program. […] Applicants for the 2010/2011 academic year may receive up to $7,500 from the scholarship programs in our files. […] There is a $29.00 processing fee on all 2010/2011 applications. This fee is necessary to cover the cost of processing the applications we expect to receive.

Paying only $29 to receive thousands may seem like a great deal, but it’s not.  Students who send in the fee with their application either receive photocopies of publicly available information or nothing at all.  And, in addition to being duped into giving the “scholarship service” their money, they’ve also been tricked into handing over their personal information.

10 Signs of Scholarship Scams:

  1. Application Fees: Steer clear of scholarships that require you to pay an “application fee.”  You shouldn’t have to pay a dime to apply for a legitimate scholarship.
  1. Requests for Personal Financial Information: Watch out for scholarships that ask for your personal financial information.  This is just a way for scammers to steal your money and your identity.
  1. “Winning” a Scholarship Contest that You Never Entered: Beware of scammers who tell you that you’ve won a scholarship that  but you don’t remember applying for or entering in a contest to win it.  The same goes for other unsolicited scholarship opportunities.  Most legitimate sponsors wait for you to come to them.
  1. No Phone Number:  Cross-off scholarships that don’t give a telephone number.  A telltale sign of a scammer is when they refuse to give you their digits (because, after all, phone numbers are easy to trace).
  1. “Anyone Can Get This Scholarship!”:  Be wary of scholarships that are open to everyone.  Most valid scholarships are only open to people who fit certain criteria.
  1. Pressure to Apply Now: Keep your distance from scholarships that are “first come, first serve” or that tell you the opportunity is only available for a limited time.  Time pressure is another one of those red flags because it’s a way to get people to make quick decisions without having time to consider risks and alternatives.
  1. “We Do All the Work”: Don’t fall for swindlers who tell you they’ll fill out the scholarship application for you.  Many scholarships require letters of recommendation and an essay, which are things you can’t farm out to other people.
  1. Typos: Though it may sound silly, be cautious of scholarship websites that contain typos.  It could be an innocent mistake by a legitimate scholarship, but it’s best to check to make sure.
  1. No Proof of Past Winners: Be on alert if you can’t find any evidence of past winners.  Though some new (real) scholarships won’t have a list of prior recipients, it’s a good idea to be on guard if you can’t dig up any history.
  1. Flashy Endorsements: Double-check scholarships that claim to be sponsored by a college or university, or a well known agency such as the Better Business Bureau for the U.S. Department of Education.

 

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