Don’t get scammed on your way to college!
Financial aid scams are a hot topic these days. You should be aware of the tactics companies use to convince students to buy their services. Here are some of the most common claims students are hearing:
“If you use our services, you’re guaranteed to get at least $5,500 in student aid for college, or we’ll give you your money back.”
This claim doesn’t mean anything. Most students are eligible for at least $5,500 in unsubsidized student loans anyway—and because a student loan is considered student aid, you won’t be able to ask for a refund if that’s all you’re offered. No one can guarantee to get you a grant or scholarship. Remember, too, that refund guarantees often have conditions or strings attached. Get refund policies in writing.
“Applying for aid is complicated. We’re the only ones who can help you through the process and find all the aid for which you’re eligible.”
Unlikely. There are many places to get free help applying for student aid. Check with your school counselor or college financial aid office for help filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school or college also can help you find scholarships. And be sure to try the free scholarship search at www.studentaid.ed.gov/scholarship.
“I’d like to offer you a scholarship [or grant]. All I need is your bank account information so the money can be deposited and a processing fee charged.”
Don’t pay to fill out the FAFSA!
The FAFSA is a free application. Fill it out at www.fafsa.gov.
Other sites will charge you.
Watch out! It’s extremely rare for a legitimate organization to charge a processing fee for a scholarship. Some criminals imitate legitimate foundations, federal agencies, and corporations. They might even have official-sounding names to fool students. Don’t give anyone your bank account or credit card information or your Social Security number (SSN) unless you initiated the contact and trust the company. Such personal identification information could be used to commit identity theft. If you’ve been contacted by someone claiming to be from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and asking for your SSN or bank account information, do not provide it. (ED does not make such requests.) Instead, immediately contact the agencies listed below.
To find out how to prevent or report a financial aid scam, visit or call:
• Federal Trade Commission
(TTY for the hearing impaired: 1-866-653-4261)
• U.S. Department of Education
Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline
• For more ideas about where to find free information on student aid, visit Looking for Student Aid Without Getting Scammed at www.studentaid.ed.gov/LSA.
Reduce your risk when applying for aid
• Apply for federal student aid by filling out the FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov.
• After completing the FAFSA online, exit the application and close the browser; any cookies created during your session will be deleted automatically.
• Don’t tell anyone your Federal Student Aid PIN (studentaid.ed.gov/fafsa/filling-out/pin), even if that person is helping you fill out the FAFSA.
• Review your financial aid award documents and keep track of the amounts you applied for and received.
• Never give personal information over the phone or Internet unless you made the contact. If you have questions about an offer of aid or about your student loan account, ask your college or contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at studentaid.ed.gov/contact.
• Keep receipts and documents (for example, credit applications or offers, checks and bank statements) with personal information in a safe place, and shred them when you are finished with them.
• Keep your purse or wallet safe at all times; store it and other items containing personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates.
• Immediately report all lost or stolen identification to the issuer (the credit card company or your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles) and to the police, if appropriate.
Source: Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education studentaid.ed.gov