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Avoiding Scholarship Scams

Six “signs” you have a bogus scholarship search program:

  • The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.
  • You can’t get this information anywhere else.
  • May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.
  • We’ll do all the work.
  • The scholarship will cost some money.
  • You’ve been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship, or “you’re a finalist” - in a contest you never entered.

To report a scam to the Federal Trade Commission, contact www.ftc.gov or call the National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060.

Spotting Online Scholarship Scams

Fraudulent scholarships can take many forms: the most common type of scholarship scams include scholarship for profit and guaranteed scholarship search scams.  The first type charges an application fee for scholarships that never materialize, or are less than advertised or disburses less money in the scholarship than is received from application fees.  The second type charges a fee to match student information against databases of scholarships and guarantees that the student will actually receive money.

There are certain warning signs that can help you identify possible scholarship scams.  The following are just a few taken from the FinAid! web site.  Note that the following signs do not automatically indicate fraud or deception.  However, any organization that exhibits several of these signs should be treated with caution.

  • Application Fees
  • Loan Fees
  • Guaranteed winnings
  • The “unclaimed” aid myth
  • We apply on your behalf

If you suspect that a scholarship is a scam, get a second opinion. These organizations can help you determine whether an offer is legitimate. They will report any prior reports of complaint or whether they are under investigation.

  • National Fraud Information Center
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • State Attorney General’s Office
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • U.S. Postal Inspection Service


  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you must pay money to get money, it might be a scam.
  • Spend the time, not the money.
  • Never invest more than a postage stamp to get information about scholarships.
  • Nobody can guarantee that you will win a scholarship.
  • Legitimate scholarship foundations do not charge application fees.
  • If you are suspicious of an offer, it’s usually with good reason.

For more information about scholarship scams please visit http://www.finaid.org/scholarships or http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/scholarship/.

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