Avoiding Scholarship Scams
There are a wide variety of scholarship scams, and it may not always be easy identifying them. One thing you should always remember is that you should never be asked for money or any financial information in order to apply for a scholarship or to receive one. All legitimate scholarships will be free to apply for, and the information about these scholarships will be readily available online. Students should never give out personal details or banking information when applying for a scholarship. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Warning Signs To Be Aware Of:
Promises for a Low-interest Student Loan for a Fee.
- Legitimate student loans are offered through the federal government, bank lenders and some other private institutions, and none of them require that you pay anything other than the interest charges that you will accumulate over the life of the loan.
Guaranteed or Your Money Back!
- No company can guarantee that you will receive a scholarship. The only people who can guarantee that you will receive a scholarship are members of a scholarship committee — when they are notifying you that you have won. Shady companies may promise that they can get you a scholarship, but their "guarantee" may come with so many caveats that it's impossible to ever meet them all to collect on your refund if you don't get a scholarship. If anyone promises to get you a scholarship, that's a red flag that you shouldn't work with them.
You've Been Selected!
- These are just the words you want to hear — but you should never hear them until you've actually applied for a scholarship. When you haven't applied for a scholarship but you receive an e-mail or letter telling you that you will get one, that's a big warning sign that you're dealing with a scam. You can only win legitimate scholarships when you actually apply for them.
It Will Only Cost...
- Searching for or applying for a scholarship should never cost money. Ever. Some services may charge money to help you conduct your search, but these services only have access to information that is freely available. • Any attempt to get your financial information or payment for any reason whatsoever. This information will never be requested by legitimate scholarship opportunities.
We Have Exclusive Access.
- No one has exclusive access to scholarship information. All information about scholarships can be freely found online.
We'll Do All the Work, You Just Pay a Processing Fee…
- No company can do all the work for you. All they can do is provide you a list of potential scholarships to which you can apply. You have to fill out and submit all of your own applications.
- Other than submitting your application by the deadline, there is no reason you should ever have to "act now" to get a scholarship. If you are selected for a scholarship, it will be yours. Companies who want you to "act now" are typically trying to get your financial information.
Don’t Pay for the FAFSA Form
- Several websites offer FAFSA help for a fee. These sites are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Department of Education. You can get the same resources for free at fafsa.gov, the official FAFSA site. You can also get free FAFSA assistance through the financial aid office at your college or the college(s) you’re thinking about attending; or the Federal Student Aid Information Center (firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-4-FED-AID). If you are asked for your credit card information while filling out the FAFSA form online, you are not at the official government site. Remember, the official FAFSA site address – fafsa.gov - has .gov in it!
Required Tuition Payment Scam
- The most common scam targeting college students involves claims about being behind on their tuition. The would-be thief contacts your child claiming to be from the admissions department at their college or university, and asserts your student is late in meeting their financial obligations. The fraudster says that, unless a credit card payment is made immediately, your student will be dropped from their classes or failed.
If you or your child receives an email or phone call making these claims, hang up right away or don’t click any links in the email. Then, contact the college directly using the phone number listed on the school’s website or in any orientation materials to determine if any payments are owed. That way, you can find out if it is a scam by going straight to the alleged source.
Tips and Tools to Find Legitimate Scholarship Opportunities
The good thing is that finding legitimate scholarship opportunities is quite easy. There are many well-known websites that provide searchable databases of available scholarships. You can search these sites by criteria such as academics, religious affiliation, race, gender, and so on to help you find a scholarship for which you may be eligible.
You can read more about scholarship scams on the following pages: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)'s "Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams", College Board's "How to Spot Scholarship Scams", and the U. S. Department of Education (USDOE)'s —Scholarship Scams.
When evaluating a website to determine if it is a legitimate source of scholarship information, ask these questions:
- Is there an "about" page with clear information about the company or the web page?
- Is there information about how and why the scholarship was established?
- Is the content of the site regularly updated?
- Does the site ask you for financial information or other person details; it shouldn't!
- Does the site attempt to sell you anything; because it shouldn't!
UNC Charlotte maintains a listing of external scholarship opportunities students may consider, by visiting scholarships.uncc.edu and clicking on the Resources link at the top of the screen. The university has taken time to review these opportunities and the host organization. However, each host business and organization is external to UNC Charlotte and administers application collection, review and recipient selection processes independent from the university. Students should always be mindful to only provide information that is required as part of a standard scholarship application, and never provide financial or sensitive information when seeking a scholarship. For more information about the external scholarship opportunities posted on this page, contact the University Scholarship Office at 704‑687‑5871 or email@example.com.
What to do if you Suspect or Confirm a Scholarship Scam
Despite your best efforts, you may still encounter a scholarship scam in your search for college aid. If you do run into a scam, or what you suspect to be a scam, there are several agencies to which you can report the company:
- Federal Trade Commission. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0341-file-complaint-ftc or 877-FTC-HELP
- Your state attorney general's office. http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php.
- Better Business Bureau. http://www.bbb.org/
- File a complaint with the USDOE's Office of Inspector General here. This filing may help in an investigation, but will not solve your individual problem.
If you are unsure about whether you have encountered a scholarship scam or whether you should report it, talk with a financial aid counselor, guidance counselor or academic advisor at your school for advice.