With over 300,000 people in America googling 'scholarships' every year, the demand for scholarships is high - and so is the risk of falling victim to a scholarship scam. With "opportunity for all" being our mantra, we want to make sure students are protected. These are our go-to's for sussing out the real opportunities.
There are several warning signs with scholarship scams. If you come across one of these red flags, file a complaint to one of the bodies outlined in the next section.
Never apply to a scholarship with an application fee. The whole point of a scholarship is to help students pay for their education, not make money from them. If they are asking you for money, they aren't legit.
Do not apply to a scholarship with money-back offers of guarantees. They should award money when someone has won a scholarship, not when they're applying.
If a scholarship claims to provide 'exclusive information' it's shady. A real scholarship program won't bait you into applying for any other reason than to help you pay for school.
The most obvious sign of a scholarship scam is an application that requests credit card or banking information. DO NOT VOLUNTEER YOUR FINANCIAL INFORMATION like social security numbers under any circumstances. No one needs access to your finances to help you pay for school.
'Phishing' and 'Pharming' scams are two of the most common internet scams.
Phishing scams are unsolicited emails from sources pretending to be a reputable company that encourage you to reveal personal information, likely passwords, credit card numbers, and account numbers. These emails will bear a logo of your bank or credit card company to trick you.
Pharming scams are like phishing scams, except scammers will drive you to a bogus website that mimics a legitimate one to get you to volunteer your personal and financial information. Both scams can come in the form of emails so be sure that you set your spam filters for your inbox.
See Something, Say Something
If you come across any of the examples listed, alert authorities so that other financial aid-seeking students or anyone does not fall victim to a scam. There are a few official bodies to whom you can report suspicious activity.
National Fraud Information Center (NCIF)
Visit their website, www.fraud.org to file a complaint online
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Go to www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscams to file a complaint online or write to:
Federal Trade Commission Consumer
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580
State Attorney General's Office
You can also file complaints with the Protection Division in your state. Visit www.naag.org to find your state Attorney General's Office.
US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)
Use this body to report mail fraud at postalinspectors.uspis.gov, or call the Crime Hotline at 877-876-2455 or write to:
Criminal Investigations Service Center
222 S. Riverside Plaza, Ste. 1250
Chicago, IL 60606-6100
Better Business Bureau
File an online complaint about a business at www.bbb.org or all 703-276-0100
How Scholly Protects You
We want you to win so we bring you the best scholarships possible. We base our quality assistance on three central tenets:
1. We never add sweepstakes scholarships to our database. These kinds of scholarships have many applicants and decrease you chances of actually winning.
2. We do not house scholarships that require membership in an organization or program. Our motto is 'Opportunity for All' which means we want scholarships that are open to the public.
3. Scholarships that require users to sign up for a product or service as a part of the application process are also not added to our database. We want you to focus on what's important here, and that is getting money for school.
Scholarships can change lives, but so can scholarship scams. Be sure you're changing your life for the better, with Scholly.