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Avoiding College Scholarship Scams

Every year, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. The victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually. Scam operations often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders and scholarship matching services, using official-sounding names containing words like "National," "Federal," "Foundation," or "Administration." How can you determine which scholarships are legitimate? To avoid being the victim of a scholarship scam, set up guidelines to identify which scholarships might be of concern. Here are some warning signs:

Rewards without Entries

For most students, writing another essay after going through the college application process is tedious. When an award is given without the student having to submit an application, it is quite surprising. Beware the awards without entries.

Processing Fees

Scholarships that require a processing fee should raise a red flag. Some scholarships add a disclosure statement that guarantees the winnings and states that students will be eligible for a refund. These are additional scam slogans to ensure that students will be comfortable as consumers. In reality, the money never returns.

Free Seminar

This on-the-spot scam lures students by sending letters that ask them to attend a seminar in which the organization will present attractive materials that guarantee students will qualify for a scholarship.

A fee is charged or may be deducted from your bank account, and you receive a package with a few scholarships listed. Often, other sources, such as the school counselor or a credible database, will have information on the scholarships presented.

Encourage parents and students to ask questions

If an organization is legitimate, then information such as a physical address or telephone listing for the company should be available and verifiable. Warn families to particularly beware of P.O. boxes, especially in Florida and California (homes to a disproportionate number of these fraudulent organizations). Many scholarship databases provide accurate and reliable sources. Do your research first. Getting the right information can earn you the biggest reward of all.

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