As students and parents are motivated to reduce college loan costs, outside scholarships are an attractive source of additional funding for a college education. Unfortunately, there are con artists that can take advantage of this eagerness to find college scholarships. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students are defrauded by scholarship scams, totaling over $100 million dollars lost annually. Remember that donors have created these scholarship funds to give away; they will not be hiding the scholarship programs from you. The scholarship should not be a secret that you have to pay a third party to find for you. Be aware of the source of the scholarship; is it a trusted source that you are familiar with, or a source that you may want to investigate its legitimacy. Scam operations will sometimes try to imitate legitimate Federal and State agencies and can contain official sounding words in their title like "Federal", "Foundation", or "National." Although there are a few legitimate companies that require a nominal application fee or a fee to access their database, we recommend avoiding all companies or organizations that require any money to search for, apply, or receive an outside scholarship.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions students to look for the following lines that are often used by scholarship scams.
- "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
- "You can't get this information anywhere else."
- "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
- "We'll do all the work."
- "The scholarship will cost some money."
- "You've been selected by a 'national foundation' to receive a scholarship" or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
Don't let these scam artists discourage you from applying for outside scholarships, they are a great supplemental source of funding your education. Just be aware of the possible scams and keep your wits about you during your search and application process.