Ways To Identify Scholarship Scams

Scholarship scams can be difficult to identify, as they often appear to be legitimate opportunities. Unfortunately, there are numerous scholarship scams that are designed to take advantage of unsuspecting students and their families. Fortunately, there are some key signs that can help you identify potential scholarship scams and protect yourself from falling victim to one. By being aware of these warning signs, you can protect yourself and ensure that the scholarship you are applying for is legitimate.

Pursuing higher education at prestigious colleges, vocational schools or a certificate program abroad often helps you to move ahead in your career and make big money. However, studying abroad is a little expensive. Because of this, scammers take advantage of your condition and promise to help you get a scholarship or financial aid to pay your tuition bills. But in reality, all these scammers are trying to do is steal your information as well as your money. Keep reading this blog to know how these scammers conduct these scams, how to be safe, and much more!

How Does it Begin?

Financial aid or a scholarship scam often begins with a social media post, a letter in the mail or an email. It usually looks like a personalized invitation showing that you are selected for a particular scholarship or a financial grant. Sometimes there is a callback number along with the details about the in-person workshop at a hotel. However, these events as well as calls, are high-pressure sales pitches forcing you to pay for their services immediately or risk losing these unique opportunities or scholarships or financial aid packages.

Financial Aid Scams

Some companies aim to make you eligible for financial aid such as grants, work-study programs, loans, and other similar aid. These companies claim that they are going to handle all the required paperwork for the so-called program when you pay processing fees. However, what they do is fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, which is a free form that helps determine whether you are eligible for federal aid or not. 

Sometimes, these scammers use false information about your family’s assets, income, and benefits so that you get qualified for more financial aid than you would get in case you were told the truth. When you fall prey to these scammers, in addition to losing money, you can also get fines of up to $20,000 (INR 16.48 Lakh) or jail time for giving false information on your FAFSA. You and your family members are eligible to complete your FAFSA, which is always free to fill out as well as submit. You must never share your FAFSA ID, username, and password with anyone, not even companies or consultants. Some dishonest people can use this information to get into your account and take control of your personal information. 

Identify Scholarship Scams

You must never pay to apply for a scholarship. There are some evident ways to identify scholarship scams

  • Processing cost

When a company promises you a scholarship or a financial grant in exchange for a redemption fee/ upfront payment/ processing cost, then walk straight away. Most of these companies give you nothing for free, not even the list of potential scholarships and sources for scholarships. 

  • Asking account details

Some others may say that you have been selected for a scholarship award that you had never applied for and requires an upfront fee. You must also be aware that sometimes these companies ask for your account details or credit card information to confirm eligibility, but what they do is debit your account without your consent. 

  • Money refund guarantee

Some others claim a money-back guarantee but attach a list of conditions that makes it impossible to get a refund. Many legitimate companies have lists of scholarships they offer for sale. The basic difference between scammers and the legitimate company is that it never promises or guarantees a scholarship or grant.

Common Phrases to Watch Out for

Now you might be thinking, how can you differentiate an offer from a scam? Here are some of the common phrases that scammers use that you can watch out for to identify scholarship scams. 

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or you’ll get 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. You just need to pay a processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
  • “You’re a finalist [for a contest you never entered].”

Ensure Safety from Such Scams

When looking for financial aid or a scholarship, you must follow the steps given below to ensure you are not falling prey to scammers and identify scholarships scam early

  • One of the essential steps that help you in getting financial aid is to Fill out the free FAFSA form and apply for financial assistance.
  • Remember that you must never pay anyone to fill out or process your FAFSA. That’s the initial sign of you being scammed.
  • You can also talk with a guidance counsellor (if you’re in high school) or the financial aid office (if you’re in college) about financial aid and scholarship options.
  • Another important thing to remember is to never pay at a seminar on how to get financial aid or scholarships. Mostly these seminars are to pressure you to pay, and that’s probably a scam.
  • You must also do your quality research before you pay anyone to get help with financial aid or scholarships.
  • The last step that you must follow is to share this useful information with others who are looking for financial aid, too. You can also help them avoid a scam.

What to do If You Paid a Scammer?

Scammers ask to pay you in many ways, extending from cash to UPI payment options, making it even tougher to get your hard-earned money back. It does not matter how you have paid scammers. The sooner to act is better. However, you can also contact the bank immediately to inform them of the situation and inquire about a refund. Most banks will repay you if you transfer money to someone due to fraud. This is referred to as an ‘authorised pushed payment.’

Report Scams

You can report your financial aid and scholarship scams to:

  • The FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov
  • your state attorney general

Scholarship scams steal hundreds of thousands from students and parents each year. Scammers frequently use official-sounding names incorporating words like “National,” “Federal,” “University,” or “Administration” to impersonate legitimate government bodies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders, and scholarship matching services.

This blog discusses how to spot scholarship scammers, how to tell the difference between real and fraudulent organizations, how to defend yourself against scholarship scams, and what to do when you are cheated. In general, avoid scholarships that require a processing fee, scholarship match agencies that guarantee success, order to plan loan frauds, and sales pitches masquerading as financial aid “seminars.”


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