7 Signs to Beware of Financial Aid Scams and Tricks Online

Last Updated on May 23, 2023

African American College student discovers she is a victim of a financial aid scam

Few of us can afford to pay for our full college tuition and other educational expenses entirely on our own. Most of us need to get financial aid of some type, whether it's a scholarship, a grant, or a loan. As a result, there is a lot of competition for these sources of funding — which also means a lot of people trying to take advantage of those in need of that funding with scams.

There are a lot of scams that promise to get you the money you need for your college education, only to try to take money from you. It is important to learn about these scams so you know what to avoid when applying for financial aid.

Here are 7 signs to look for to help you avoid becoming a victim of financial aid scams and tricks:

Claiming to Have Exclusive Information

Many scammers will claim to have exclusive information about scholarships and financial aid opportunities, and they may try to charge you to get it. All information about scholarships and any other types of financial aid is public information. Any information that the person has (if it is legitimate) is available to you, as well.

Asking for Money

You should never have to pay money to be considered for a scholarship or any other type of financial aid. You should also never have to pay money to gain access to information about scholarships and financial aid. All legitimate scholarships and financial aid are free to apply for, and information about them is publicly available.

Asking for Private Information

Shady sites will ask for your private information to grant you access to scholarship information. They will then use this information to steal your identity or to make purchases or other transactions in your name. Some sites will trick you into believing you are applying for the scholarship, but they are only stealing your information.

It is important to never provide personal information to gain access to a site with scholarship information, and it is especially important never to fill out an application through any site other than the school or agency offering the financial aid.

Offering to Submit Applications

Some scammers will try to steal your information by offering to fill out and submit applications on your behalf. You should never allow someone to fill out applications for you, as this is unethical and it provides your sensitive personal information to someone who could (and probably will) use it for nefarious purposes. Beware of any site that offers to handle your application on your behalf.

Making Solicitations

It's easy enough to pretend to be someone else on the Internet. Many scammers will set up e-mail accounts or social media accounts to look like financial aid officers or other college officials and will reach out to you offering you a scholarship or the chance to apply for one. This is another ruse to obtain your personal — even if it's only your e-mail address to send you e-mail spam.

Personally verify the e-mail addresses of any officials — which should be readily available on a school or agency's website — before replying. Never provide personal information through e-mail.

Offering Pre-Approval

No agency will “pre-approve” you for a scholarship or financial aid. You apply, and then you either get it or you don't. It's not like a loan application. No reputable agency will offer an opinion about your likelihood of winning an award. If you are contacted with claims that you have been pre-approved for financial aid, it is certainly a scam.

Offering a Guarantee

No one can ever guarantee that you will be granted aid. With scholarships, there are committees who decide. With other forms of aid, it depends on whether you meet certain criteria, how much money there is to give, how many other people apply, and so on. If an agency or recruiter claims to be able to guarantee you an award, it's a scam.

There are many ways that people will try to scam you to take your money or your personal information when you are looking for financial aid. These are just some of the most common scams that are in use, but thieves will get creative, so it's always important to remain vigilant when you are applying for aid.

Have you had any experience with any of these common scams? Share your experiences in the comments!

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