The Center For Debt Management
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Students Getting Stung Trying to Find Dollars For College

With tuition bills skyrocketing, and room and board going through the roof, students and their families are looking for creative ways to finance a college education. Unfortunately, in their efforts to pay the bills, many of them are falling prey to scholarship scams.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, unscrupulous companies guarantee or promise scholarships or grants. Some guarantee that they can get scholarships on behalf of students or award them “scholarships” in exchange for an advance fee. Most offer a “money back guarantee”— but attach conditions that make it impossible to get the refund. Others provide nothing for the student's advance fee — not even a list of potential sources; and still others tell students they've been selected as “finalists” for awards that require an up-front fee. Sometimes, these companies ask for a student's checking account to “confirm eligibility,” then debit the account without the student's consent.

The FTC cautions students to look and listen for these tell-tale lines:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”

  • “You can't get this information anywhere else.”

  • “I just need 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.

The FTC says many legitimate companies advertise that they can get students access to lists of scholar ships in exchange for an advance fee. Others charge an advance fee to compare a student's profile with a database of scholarship opportunities and provide a list of awards for which a student may qualify. And, there are scholarship search engines on the World Wide Web. The difference: Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.


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