Q:

Recently, I have received several emails offering to help me find a college scholarship. How can I tell if I am being scammed or if these are genuine offers? I would love to get a scholarship instead of having to borrow money. -- Need a Scholarship

A:

There are definitely legitimate companies that will help you find scholarships. Some will charge you a fee. On the other hand, there are many that may ask you for money upfront and provide nothing in return. You need to be very wary and watch out for the following red flags that show a company is trying to scam you:

  • -A company offers you a "money-back guarantee" that they will secure a scholarship for you. Don't believe it. Unscrupulous companies will attach conditions that make it impossible to get the refund.
  • -A company claims to have inside knowledge of scholarship money; they're lying. Information on scholarships is available freely to the public. Ask your librarian or school counselor where you can find scholarship information.
  • -A company tells you that you have been selected as a "finalist" for awards. If they ask for an upfront fee, head for the nearest exit.
  • -A company asks for your checking account to "confirm eligibility." If a company wants bank account information or your credit card number to confirm or reserve a scholarship, it's a scam.
  • -A company quotes a relatively small "monthly" or "weekly" fee. Then they ask for authorization to debit your checking account for an unspecified length of time. Ongoing fees are a sure sign of a scam.
  • -A company makes you an unsolicited offer. Whether it is an email or phone call or the offer came in your mailbox, if you didn't request the information, ignore the offer.