5 Common Ways to Spot Scholarship Scams

By   |  September 19, 2012

“You’re an instant winner! Claim your free $50,000 scholarship right now! … Disclaimer: We will need a copy of your social security card, birth certificate, bank account records (with numbers), and your soul to process payment.”

It’s easy to fall for a scholarship scam when you’re desperate for money to pay for college. Most of them aren’t as obvious as the example above, but they include the same warning signs you need to look for. Take off the rose-colored glasses and put on your skeptical spectacles. You’ll soon be able to see what sorts of scholarships you need to avoid. Here are five common examples:

Give Money to Get Money

No legitimate scholarship offer is going to ask you to put forth money in exchange for money. If you have to pay a “processing fee” or an “acceptance fee,” you’re going to get scammed. Those people will take your money or your credit card information and go to town at your expense. You should be particularly careful about scholarship offers you never even applied for, as those are usually the ones that just pulled your information out of a database. Think logically before giving out any payment information.

Send Part of Your Money Back

Another scam that is becoming popular nowadays is the “We’ll send you a check and you’ll send part of it back” offer. In this case, a supposed scholarship committee will issue a check directly to you, requesting that you send part of it back to them to cover some sort of expense. All these people want to do is get the money and stick you with the bounced check fees from your bank. You’re the one taking on all the risk at this point. The vast majority of scholarship committees will send the money directly to your college, so try to stick with those.

Transfer Money to Your Credit Card

Have you ever been asked for your credit card information, even if it had nothing to do with the scholarship? That my friend is a scam. Some companies claim that they will deposit money onto your credit card, rather than sending you a check in the mail. The offer seems tempting, but it’s just a way for them to get your card information. The same theory goes for scholarship committees who ask for your PayPal information. Don’t give out this kind of information when it just doesn’t fit the opportunity.

Do Nothing to Get a Full Ride

If a scholarship seems like it is blatantly too easy to win, chances are it is. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find genuine no essay scholarships in the world. There are plenty of them out there. The catch is that those awards are $500 – $2,000, not $50,000. You can apply for easy scholarships all you want, but make sure the award values match the amount of work you put into them. You’ll be able to tell if things don’t add up.

Click 20 links to Make $20,000

Perhaps my favorite scholarship scam of all is the one that makes you click on the links to a million different websites before you can get to (or complete) your application. A lot of sites make money from affiliate marketing, so every click you give them is just more money in their pockets. At the end of the huge journey, you find out that the scholarship is no longer available or “Unfortunately, you weren’t selected as an instant winner.” This is all a waste of time.

Be cautious the next time you want to apply for scholarships. You should keep your options open, but don’t get gypped in the process. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay far, far, far away from it.

Heaven Stubblefield is one of the scholarship experts behind ScholarshipScouts.org. She spends her time helping other students find scholarships for college so they can graduate free of debt.

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