The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning students searching or applying for grants and scholarships via a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form by the June 30 deadline to watch out for scammers trying to take advantage of this stressful period.
The consumer-oriented agency said its Scam Tracker platform received multiple reports from individuals who fell victim to scammers while looking for ways to pay their tuition in 2022. The fraudsters, it said, were also promising access to phony student loan forgiveness programs.
The BBB urges caution during this time since many scammers are posing as financial aid representatives from either a government, university or non-profit organization when contacting victims.
“They claim you have won a scholarship or a grant (without ever applying) and ask for payment of a one-time processing fee” the BBB explained. ”In another version, the scammer pressures you into applying for a ‘guaranteed’ scholarship or grant. However, there is a fee to apply. Time goes by once the fee is paid, and the money is never sent. When attempting to contact a representative, it is quickly discovered that the company has set so many conditions that it is almost impossible to receive a refund.”
Here are some tips you can use to safeguard your identity and money against scholarship scams:
Financial aid scams are especially dangerous because they can put you at risk of identity theft and other severe consequences since financial aid often requires filling out personally sensitive data.
· Scrutinize all unsolicited offers. While scams may look like legitimate scholarship applications, watch out for correspondence that guarantees your scholarship, offering exclusive access to scholarship databases or scholarship prizes in lieu of a small redemption fee.
· Whenever you receive a scholarship offer, ask the organization how it got your contact information.
· Ask a lot of questions and stop communication if the representative is rushing you into making any payments
· Never pay anyone to fill out or process your FAFSA, and never give out your FSA ID username or password.
· Protect your personal information at all costs. Avoid any offers that are limited-time offers and request sensitive data such as your credit card information, Social Security number or bank account or credentials
· Use well-known and trustworthy sources when searching for financial aid
· Use a security solution to defend against fraudulent and phishing websites you may unintentionally access