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Scholarship Scams

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School Responsibility | Scholarship Scams

Scholarship search services and financial aid advice services are common these days. Unfortunately, too many of these for-profit companies charge high rates to provide information that can be found elsewhere for free.

Charging a lot for a service isn’t illegal – what makes some of these companies fraudsters is that they collect money to find scholarships for students but never provide the information, or they misrepresent themselves as a government agency in order to appear legitimate and attract customers, or they guarantee they’ll get the student full funding for college (and then don’t). Still, although it’s obviously legal to charge for services genuinely rendered, you should keep reading if you want to save yourself some money…

If you’re searching the Internet for scholarships and visit a site that asks for your credit card or another form of payment before it’ll help you find funding, you might want to keep searching. Similarly, if you or your parents are contacted by an unfamiliar organization that invites you to an “interview” or “seminar” about preparing and paying for college, do your homework. Ask your high school counselor or a college financial aid administrator whether they’ve heard of the organization and know it’s legitimate. In many cases, such invitations are a way to get you and your parents to come listen to a sales pitch: the company wants you to pay for advice on scholarships and other funding.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you the information they offer can’t be found anywhere else. You can get free advice from a variety of sources. The best places to start are your high school counselor or a college financial aid administrator.

For details about financial aid scams and additional sources of free information, visit our Looking for Student Aid site.

To download a poster that reminds students where to get free advice and applications for federal student aid, visit our Don’t Get Stung page.

To learn about the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) efforts to combat scholarship scams, and to download the FTC’s posters, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/scholarship/.

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Last Modified: 02/04/2011