Fraud takes many forms and scams have been around for a long time.  With the emer­gence of tLate Stage College Planninghe inter­net and social media, it’s become much hard­er to iden­ti­fy who is legit­i­mate and who is the fraud­ster.  Even the bright­est stu­dents and their par­ents can fall vic­tim to the schemes of scam­mers.  Avoid­ing scams requires con­stant vig­i­lance in order to be able to detect them before they take advan­tage of you.

Top 6 Col­lege Scams

  1. The Tuition Scam

Beware the email or phone call from some­one claim­ing to be from the col­lege admis­sions depart­ment.  Some­times fraud­sters spoof IDs to make it look like a real orga­ni­za­tion.  They call to offer a finan­cial aid pack­age designed to get both your (and your par­ents) per­son­al infor­ma­tion and up-front mon­ey for things such as tuition pay­ments or oth­er fees.

Instead of work­ing with the per­son on the phone or via email, call or go to the college’s admis­sions depart­ment direct­ly.  Dou­ble check to make sure the assis­tance being offered is legit­i­mate.

  1. The Schol­ar­ship Scam

The inter­net has made it much eas­i­er to find a schol­ar­ship or grant.  Beware the schol­ar­ship search sites that por­tray them­selves as being a benev­o­lent tool cre­at­ed for the pur­pose of help­ing the mass­es find mon­ey.  Some of these sites are traps only designed to get you to type in your per­son­al infor­ma­tion.  Once they have this infor­ma­tion, they can then sell it to a spam orga­ni­za­tion and your email in-box will be filled with junk.  Avoid sites that require you to input infor­ma­tion about your­self.  Also avoid sites that require you to pay for a ser­vice that helps you find and/or apply for schol­ar­ships.  These sites rarely do any­thing that you couldn’t do for your­self.  Stick with the free schol­ar­ship search tools and research each award’s legit­i­ma­cy before sub­mit­ting an appli­ca­tion.

Be wary if you hear some­one say “The schol­ar­ship is guar­an­teed or you mon­ey back”.  No one can guar­an­tee that they’ll get you a grant or schol­ar­ship.  Refund guar­an­tees often have con­di­tions or strings attached.

Also be wary of the “Schol­ar­ship Prize” scam where you are told you’ve won a schol­ar­ship worth thou­sands of dol­lars, but requires you pay for the tax­es on the mon­ey or a fee to release the funds.  If you nev­er entered a con­test, ignore the mate­r­i­al.

  1. Social Media Scam

Scam artists have seized the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prey upon young adult’s adop­tion (or addic­tion) to social media.  One tech­nique involves scam­mers set­ting up fake pages for uni­ver­si­ties and reach­ing out to the poten­tial stu­dents to get their email address­es.  Pho­ny pages and pro­files are cre­at­ed to har­vest per­son­al infor­ma­tion.  At best, the stu­dent gets a moun­tain of email spam.  At worst, it could result in iden­ti­ty theft.  To avoid these scams, add only friends you know, lim­it the infor­ma­tion you post online, and be wary of invi­ta­tions to “like” pages.

Watch the Wi-Fi con­nec­tions as well.  Hack­ers and thieves prey on peo­ple who use Wi-Fi in non-secure loca­tions such as cof­fee shops, restau­rants and parks.  They can set-up an alter­na­tive Wi-Fi site that will mim­ic exist­ing Wi-Fi sites. Once some­one has con­nect­ed to their “dum­my” site, they are able to steal a person’s per­son­al infor­ma­tion.

  1. FAFSA Assis­tance (for a fee)

There are a vari­ety of web­sites that offer to help with the fil­ing of the Appli­ca­tion for Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid forms.  But these sites are not affil­i­at­ed nor endorsed by the U.S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion.  And, the Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion rec­om­mends avoid­ing these sites as fam­i­lies can get assis­tance for free else­where.  Specif­i­cal­ly, the finan­cial aid office at the col­lege or uni­ver­si­ty you’re think­ing about attend­ing, the FAFSA’s online help at fafsa.gov or the Fed­er­al Stu­dent Aid Infor­ma­tion Cen­ter.

  1. Low Inter­est Loans and Online Books Scam

This scam offers you an unusu­al­ly low-inter­est edu­ca­tion­al loan with the require­ment that you pay a fee before you receive the loan.  When you pay the mon­ey, the promised loan nev­er mate­ri­al­izes.  Real edu­ca­tion­al loans nev­er require an up-front fee when you sub­mit an appli­ca­tion.  If the loan is not offered by a bank or oth­er rec­og­nized lender, then it is prob­a­bly a scam.

Also, nev­er buy books online with­out first check­ing out reviews and check­ing with your col­lege.  Some­times, it is just a front to steal your iden­ti­ty.

  1. Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber Scam

Nev­er, Ever, give out your Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber.  If your cred­it card num­ber is stolen, you can have it changed.  If your Social Secu­ri­ty Num­ber is stolen, you can’t change it and the scam­mer has the abil­i­ty to take over your life.

In Clos­ing

Fol­low these rules of thumb and you should be able to avoid the major­i­ty of edu­ca­tion scams that are out there.

  • If you have to pay mon­ey to get mon­ey … it’s prob­a­bly a scam
  • If it sounds too good to be true … It’s prob­a­bly is so trust your own intu­ition
  • Invest the time, not the mon­ey
  • Nev­er invest more than a postage stamp to get infor­ma­tion about schol­ar­ships
  • A legit­i­mate schol­ar­ship guar­an­tee does not exist
  • Legit­i­mate schol­ar­ship pro­grams nev­er charge appli­ca­tion fees