Scholarship fraud and scams come in many forms and as a scholarship-seeking student, you need to be extra vigilant in this regard.
Scholarships are undoubtedly one of the best financial aids or tools that help students make it to their dream college or university. However, many students end up falling victim to different types of scams where predatory companies and scammers run away with their money.
Therefore, it’s extremely imperative for one to be able to distinguish between a genuine scholarship and a fake one.
Common Signs Of Scholarship Fraud
To avoid scholarship fraud, you must be able to spot the signs of a scholarship scam. Scammers typically have quite a few things in common which are basically signs that they aren’t genuine. So, one of the most important ways to avoid scholarship fraud is to know about the common signs and characteristics of fraud. Take a look:
They Charge A Fee
Every student knows that all scholarships are generally free and they don’t charge any fee or money for one to be able to apply for it. Scholarship scams, on the other hand, charge some kind of fee which can take several forms such as registration fee, processing fee, application fee, and many others.
If you come across a scholarship sponsor or program that has a fee attached to it, steer clear of it because it’s definitely a scam.
They Ask For Your Bank Account Number
No legitimate scholarship ever asks for a student’s bank account number or any other financial information. A scam artist is looking to empty your bank account using your account number which is why they are likely going to ask you for it.
Never provide any kind of financial information no matter what because that’s one of the biggest signs and characteristics of a scholarship fraud.
They Tell You They Will Do All The Work
If you’ve applied for a scholarship before or know someone who has, you are probably aware of the fact that all scholarship sponsors require students to fill out some paperwork that typically involves things like essay writing, letter writing, etc.
A scholarship scam involves the person telling you that they will do all the work for its applicants be it filling paperwork or writing essays. This is another huge red flag that you must be aware of when applying for scholarships.
They Offer Guaranteed Scholarship
It is a known fact that no scholarship sponsor, service, or program guarantees scholarships to its applicants. However, a scholarship fraud involves a guaranteed scholarship followed by a money-back guarantee if the applicant doesn’t make it.
Shady companies and scammers first promise you that you will get the scholarship, but their ‘guarantee’ is often attached with different requirements that are simply impossible to meet.
They Request Unusual Details And Information
Perhaps, one of the biggest signs of a scholarship scam is that it will request unusual details and information from you that a genuine scholarship would never ask.
This could include things like your Social Security Number, credit card number or other such details.
Scholarships generally never ask for any such information so to avoid scholarship fraud, you must refrain from giving out any strange details.
They Seem Unnecessarily Urgent
Any scholarship typically has a deadline for applicants that they need to meet in order to apply for it.
Scam scholarships, on the other hand, create this sense of urgency and they seem unnecessarily pressed for time for no obvious reason. They might even create this whole hype about first-come, first-served criteria which in itself is nothing but a red flag.
They Offer Exclusive Information
Another known fact about scholarships is that all their information is available online for free without requiring applicants to pay for it. Scholarship scams offer exclusive information and might even ask you to pay in order to be granted special access to that information.
This is another key characteristic of scholarship fraud and you should know that scholarship information is always available online on their respective websites with full, free access to everyone.
Investigate The Service Or Company
If you think that a certain scholarship provider, company or service is fake or a scam, it is best that you have it investigated. Some key organizations that can help you with it are:
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the city where the scholarship service is located
- The National Consumer League’s Fraud Center
- The Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP
- Your state department of consumer protection
- Your state attorney general’s office
You can simply talk to a teacher at your college or elsewhere and get them to help you with the investigation process. This way, these organizations will also become more aware of all the scammers and fraud scholarship companies out there.
Scholarships are extremely common and in a lot of cases, scammers do successfully scam many students and run away with their money.
You must be able to identify all the signs and characteristics of scholarship scams in order to avoid scholarship fraud. In a nutshell, you must keep in mind the following things:
- Never provide any kind of financial information no matter how much the service or sponsor insists on it.
- Always search about a particular scholarship through reputable sources. Lookout for phony websites that are basically set up with the intent to trick you into providing financial or personal information.
- Do not pay for receiving information related to the scholarship, nor to apply for it. The important thing to understand here is that you shouldn’t have to give money or pay any kind of fee to be eligible to apply for or receive a scholarship.
- One can easily find every bit of information about scholarships online without having to dig deep or resort to exclusive resources. The information is freely available, but a scholarship scammer will typically claim to have exclusive information that isn’t available anywhere else.
Keep these things in mind when applying for scholarships in order to avoid scholarship fraud as well as to prevent yourself from being scammed.