College Financial Aid Scam Season Is Back
Students can begin filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for the 2018-19 academic year. It’s important to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is used to determine student financial aid eligibility, as early as possible. But, as students and their families wade through their financial options, unfortunately there are quite a few scams that target the college-bound.
Know which scholarship and financial aid “offers” to avoid.
Charging a Fee for FAFSA
Many websites have been designed to look like the real FAFSA site, except the user is charged a fee to complete the application. Never pay a fee to fill out the FAFSA!
The FAFSA was designed by the Department of Education to take 15 to 20 minutes to complete. It’s designed so any family is able to sit down with their tax information and complete it on their own. If you have questions about the online form, go directly to the FAFSA website or talk to the financial aid office of the college or university you are considering.
Remember it’s a free application and should always be FREE.
Guaranteed Scholarship or Financial Aid
Any claim of guaranteed scholarship money or financial aid is also a big red flag. Sometimes scammers will claim they can help you complete your FAFSA and guarantee you financial aid. Legitimate companies never guarantee scholarships or financial aid.
Charge a Fee for Scholarships
Avoid applying for any scholarship that charges an application fee or a redemption fee. Other unscrupulous companies charge applicants a fee for a list of available scholarships. Unfortunately, when the student receives the list, they may find that many are not even applicable to them.
To find reputable scholarships, which cost nothing and don’t have to be repaid, use these legitimate scholarship search engines.
- Department of Education - Free Scholarship Search Wizard
- Federal Student Aid Website - Additional Information and Resources
When you apply for financial aid, you’re submitting confidential information. Always make sure you’re on the official, secure website at https://fafsa.ed.gov/ to safeguard your private information. Never give out personal information to someone who initiates contact with you.Also keep tabs on your credit to make sure things are as they should be during and after the financial aid season. If you suspect you’ve responded to a scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.