Avoiding Scholarship Scams This School Year

August 28, 2014

Scholarships are a wonderful opportunity for students and parents who are trying to cope with rising education costs. Unfortunately, as tuition seemingly rises year after year, so does the abundance in scholarship scams.  While scholarships are supposed to help with the costs commonly associated with the school year (books, living expenses, tuition and more), each year thousands of students are defrauded by what appears to be an opportunity for a little extra cash.

However, BBB serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties has a few easy-to-remember tips for avoiding a scholarship scam this coming semester.  Follow these reminders for an easier transition back into school and a chance to receive a legitimate scholarship:

No guarantees:  No legitimate organization, foundation, school or business scholarship is able to guarantee a student a scholarship. These false promises are one of the biggest red flags of a scam.

Up-front fees: Some organizations may ask for an upfront fee; if you see this, run away! No organization or foundation will require you to pay to apply for a scholarship.  Even if they have a “money-back” guarantee, any upfront payment required with your application should be a clear sign of a scholarship scam.

No pain no gain: While applying for scholarships, students may come across some companies that claim to be able to complete the application form for the student in exchange for compensation or a portion of the scholarship. Scholarship applications and essays generally request personal information and writing samples, which no one but the student should be able to provide.

Award without the work: If you receive an email from an organization telling you that you have won a scholarship for which you never applied to, it is best to ignore it. You should remember that scholarships are awarded to students after the application process; they are not given out to random students.  This is a clear sign of a phishing email and should be immediately deleted; don’t reply or click on any links.

Do your research: If you happen to receive a phone call or email claiming that you have won a scholarship and are tempted by the offer, before giving out any personal information or paying a “processing fee,” you should do your research. Check out the organization on bbb.org to see if they have a history of complaints, how long they’ve been in business and get a hold of contact information for the business if you have any additional questions.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about the validity of a scholarship or the organization granting the award, call your local BBB serving San Diego, Orange and Imperial Counties at 858-496-2131 or visit our BBBlog at bbb.org.