College is a big investment. Students and parents who want to get the most from a college education tend to search for ways to reduce costs through financial aid.
Scammers will take advantage of any situation where financial gain exists by outwitting people. When searching for financial aid, students and parents need to be aware of how scammers target them. It is probably a scam if:
• Scholarships, grants or other aid is “guaranteed.”
• You are a “finalist” in a contest you never entered.
• You receive an unsolicited financial award from a “national foundation.”
• You are asked to pay a “processing fee” but do nothing or little to qualify.
• You need to provide a bank account or credit card to “qualify” for a grant or scholarship.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:
• Only apply for federal aid and programs at www.fafsa.gov. Check out this helpful article from the U.S. Department of Education: www.ed.gov/blog/2014/01/7 -common-fafsa-mistakes/. Washington state financial aid information is available at www.wsac.wa.gov/ sfa-overview.
• Use grant and scholarship search tools that are free, such as those at: href=”https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search”>bigfuture.collegeboard.org /scholarship-search, www.careerinfonet.org/ scholarshipsearch/, and www.ed.gov/fund/grants- apply.html.
• Before agreeing to a federal or private student loan, check out the differences at studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans /federal-vs-private.
To check if an organization is legitimate, contact the BBB online at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200.
If you believe you have been targeted by a scam, file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and the Washington State Attorney General at href=”http://www.atg.wa.gov/fileacomplaint.aspx”>www.atg.wa.gov /fileacomplaint.aspx.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor