If you’ve spent any time on this blog at all, you know I’m a huge proponent of using college scholarships to pay for your higher education. I encourage you every Friday with a list of three scholarships with upcoming deadlines. But in your eagerness to find free money for college, you must be careful not to fall prey to a scholarship scan. Here are five of the biggest scans you should steer clear of:
1. The Guaranteed Match
So-called scholarship matching services will offer to ‘match’ you with the perfect list of scholarships that you are guaranteed to win. And they’ll charge you a hefty $50 or more for their service. Guess what? There is no such magical list. Finding the scholarships you qualify for is all about doing the legwork with free scholarship search engines, at your local library or with your school’s financial aid office. (And of course, here at the Financial Aid Finder’s Scholarship Friday post!)
2. Financial products
Insurance companies are big culprits in this scam, but they aren’t the only ones. A sales person will call you, telling you that you have qualified for a scholarship, but first, you have to purchase a financial product such as student life insurance. Total scam. Even if there is a $500 “scholarship”, the cost of the financial product far exceeds that money for school.
3. Sweepstakes scholarship
There are a handful of legitimate scholarship sweepstakes, but most of them are just a ruse to get access to your personal information and email address. To avoid flooding your regular email with spam, get a free email address to use just for sweeps.
4. The redemption fee
You get a phone call one morning. “Congratulations, you have won a scholarship for college!” Great, right? What’s not so great is the next line: To receive you scholarship, you’ll need to pay a disbursement fee, a redemption fee, or a processing fee. It doesn’t matter how they call it, the bottom line is the same: The word “fee”. If there are strings attached to a scholarship beyond routine paper work, that signals scam loud and clear.
5. Google ads
A legitimate scholarship opportunity will more than likely be a well-funded operation; they certainly shouldn’t need to place tons of Google ads all over their webpage. If you come across a scholarship website that’s loaded with ads, do some careful research before applying — especially if you need to include your address, email or phone number. It could well be a phishing scam. One simple legitimacy test is to talk to a real life person. If you can’t find a number and reach an actual person on the line, it’s more than likely a scam.
Have you ever gotten taken by a scholarship scam? What steps have you taken to protect yourself. To find legitimate scholarships, check out this post on Free Scholarship Search Engines.