How to Spot a Scholarship Scam

No. 1: Beware Scholarship "Prizes

If you receive a notice by mail or phone claiming you've "won" a scholarship award or prize --RUN AWAY!  FAST!  Before you can claim your money, you need to pay a fee. Don't buy it for a minute. Legitimate scholarships aren't awarded by entering contests or drawing entries out of a hat!
No. 2: You Know It's a Scam if ...

 The company offers to apply for scholarships on your behalf. Legitimate scholarships require you to apply yourself.

 The offer claims everyone is eligible. Legitimate scholarships set criteria that you must meet to even be considered.  Some set of restrictions always applies.

You receive a phone call announcing you are eligible for, or have been awarded, a scholarship.  Almost all legitimate scholarships will notify you by mail.
No. 3: Never Pay an Upfront Fee to Apply

Never, EVER pay an upfront fee to apply for a scholarship. Chances are, it's a scam and you'll never see your money again. These scams look like real scholarships programs, and may even grant a small $500 or $1,000 "scholarship" or two to make them sound credible. These companies don't lose that money --they pocket thousands of dollars thanks to the upfront fees they charge.
No. 4: You Don't Need a Matchmaker

t pay for scholarship matching, search or consulting services. Most are a waste of money. Some are a total rip-off. You can access the very same information online for FREE! 
No. 5:  No Guarantees in Life

The worst scholarship matching "services" make all kinds of false promises. The most common is guaranteeing to find you a scholarship.  No one can promise you will be awarded or qualify for a scholarship.  Most mean they'll just finding you a match --not the scholarship itself.


No. 6: Beware Loans Disguised as Scholarships

Loans must be repaid. Scholarships aren't. These scams ask you to apply for a scholarship after paying an application fee. After paying the fee, the company will disappear OR you'll find out the scholarship application only qualified you for a loan. Legitimate educational loans never require an upfront fee.
No. 7: "Free" Scholarship Seminars
Most of these seminars are just a high-pressured pitch to buy something, such as a fee-based consulting service, college savings, investing tool, or an overpriced student loan.
No. 8:  Psst I Know People

Run away -- fast! -- from offers that promise access to "exclusive", "private" or "unique" scholarship information. And don't believe any offer that says it has influence with scholarship sponsors. They don't. Another common lie: "our scholarship database is the biggest." 
No. 9: Warning! Danger Ahead

If a scholarship application or phone rep asks for confidential information (social security, credit card, bank account numbers, etc.) -- tear up the app or slam down the phone. This is the oldest identity theft scam in the book.  No legitimate scholarship will ask for such information on an application.  

No. 10: Your Secret Weapon Against Scams

We hope revealing these scams help you avoid them.  But when in doubt, just show the scholarship offer to your school guidance counselor or a college financial aid officer. These folks are can spot scams a mile away. Ask them to help point you to legitimate opportunities.


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