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College tuition isn’t cheap and students and their families often look for alternate ways to finance a college education. Unfortunately, in an effort to pay the bills, many can fall prey to scholarship and financial aid scams.

Fake scholarships

Some dishonest companies guarantee that they can get scholarships on behalf of students or award them “scholarships” in exchange for an advance fee, according to the FTC. Most offer a “money back guarantee” – but attach conditions that make it impossible to get the refund. 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. Other companies quote only a relatively small “monthly” or “weekly” fee and then ask for authorization to debit your checking account – for an undetermined length of time.

Here are some tell-tale signs of fraud, according to the FTC:

  • 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. You just pay a processing fee.”
  • “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.

 

Financial Aid: FAFSA Safety

The 2018-19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is now available. Completing the FAFSA form is free, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school.

When applying for financial aid, watch out for scammers who will try to charge you for services.  Remember, the FTC warns, the only application that will determine eligibility for all programs is the FAFSA and that can be completed and submitted for free. Consumers should also never share their FSA ID (it’s what you use to log in to fill out your FAFSA form).

If you hear from companies or see offers that say they’ll process your FAFSA for a fee, don’t use them. You can find all the help you need – for free – at fafsa.gov.

For more information or assistance, visit StudentAid.gov or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hard of hearing 1-800-730-8913).

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws and Arbitration Program, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry.

 

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