Stay Away From Financial Aid Scams

The stakes can be high when you're trying to get the most financial aid possible to fund your education. Some scammers try to prey on students, who are eager to pursue every type of financial aid possible. Here is what you need to know, to avoid these scams.

Resist Paying for Financial Aid Help

When you first begin looking at the financial aid process, it can seem overwhelming or confusing. One popular scam uses this initial shock to convince students to pay for financial aid advice or forms that they could get for free. These scams come in the form of "services" that offer to fill out a student's financial aid forms and sort through the process for them; the price tag for these services can be more than $1,000.

These services advertise in several ways. Some send letters to current high school students, advertising free financial aid advice at a seminar. Others send mass emails advertising their services. These services often inflate the complication of the financial aid process, and try to convince students and their families that if they mess up the process, they won't receive any funding.

The reality of the matter is that applying for Federal, state, and school-based aid isn't that complicated, and there are many absolutely free resources to help you do it. There really is no need to pay for additional help. Consult the Department of Education's website, the Federal Student Aid information center, your state's education board, or your college's financial aid officer for free advice.

The Guaranteed Scholarship

Another common scam goes like this: you're guaranteed scholarship money, if you just pay this fee and fill out these forms. Oftentimes, the service fee charged by this company is higher than the "scholarship" the student eventually wins through the service. Save yourself money and a headache by doing your own scholarship search, through free scholarship search sites. Your local library or high school is also likely to have local scholarship forms on file.

Don't Pay For the FAFSA

Many fraudulent sites with the word "fafsa" in the title operate by telling those who have stumbled on the site that they have to pay money to fill out the FAFSA form. The FAFSA is absolutely free-it's called the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid", after all! Make sure you only put your information into the official FAFSA website, located at FAFSA.gov.

Identity Theft

Beware any third-party scholarship or financial aid source that requires you to input your bank information or credit card information. While the FAFSA requires personal financial information, no private scholarship should require this, and asking for it could be a scam to steal your personal information or identity. Remember to never give such personal information out unsolicited to a third party. (studentaid.ed.gov)

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