Most college-bound individuals could use some help paying for college, and there are a number of options available. However, all too many students fall victim to student aid scams in their quest to find money to pursue their higher education. In fact, consumers lose more than $100,000 of their hard-earned money each year in student aid scams, according to the Motley Fool. Here we’ll explore some of those student aid scams so you’ll know what to look out for.
Don’t Pay for Scholarship Search Services
First of all, students should be wary of paying for scholarship search services, according to the federal student aid official website. While some commercial financial aid services companies do deliver on their promises, many use high-pressure tactics or other bad business practices and others have been reported as fraudulent. If a student knows where to look, he or she can find their own scholarships for free, rather than relying on the paid help of a third party.
Don’t Pay for Help Filling out the FAFSA
Since so many students apply for federal student aid using the FAFSA online, many commercial websites capitalize on this by offering you help completing your FAFSA for a fee. This is completely unnecessary. After all, FAFSA does stand for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Not only does the official FAFSA website provide ample information and prompts to help the free application process go as smoothly as possible, but there’s also plenty of free help available through your college’s financial aid administrator or even your guidance counselor if you’re still in high school.
Don’t Pay to Apply for Scholarships
Legitimate scholarship organizations do not require you to pay a fee up front to apply for scholarships and rarely contact random students by direct mail or e-mail. If you receive something in the mail or in your e-mail inbox from an organization that announces you were selected as a finalist in a scholarship contest and asks for a fee to secure your place, a red flag should go up, according to the California Student Aid Commission. You should also avoid any offers from companies that request your personal financial information, such as your credit card number or bank account number. Many times these are just ruses to get access to your money or even to steal your identity.