The Dark Side of Scholarships: Beware of Scams!


By Staff Writer Published on June 29, 2017

The great news is that there are a number of scholarships available1 for qualified students, and plenty of scholarship services that offer lists of scholarships to apply for—but be careful. There are plenty of scholarship scams out there, too.

The most frequent scammers you’ll encounter are the unscrupulous companies that guarantee or promise scholarships, grants, or huge financial aid packages. Or they’ll guarantee that they can get you a scholarship—but only if you provide them with an advance fee. Some of these companies will furnish you a list of scholarships that you could have found yourself online! But others provide nothing for your advance fee—not even that list.

Or you might be told that you’re a finalist for an award, but that you have to provide your financial information to confirm your eligibility. And then you’ll find your credit card or bank account debited, with nothing to show for it.

This is an example of a student loan servicing scam, which was debunked by Snopes.

Many of these scam services aim for sounding legitimate by offering a “money-back guarantee,” which sounds like you can’t lose—but the conditions they attach to their offer make it impossible to get your refund.

The Federal Trade Commission cautions students to look and listen for these telltale lines when looking for scholarship opportunities:

"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!"

"The scholarship will cost some money to apply."

You've been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship you never applied for.

If you encounter any of these signs, or feel even the slightest bit suspicious of an offer that seems too good to be true, investigate the organization online, or talk to your financial aid advisor. To file a complaint or get more information, you can also visit ftc.gov or call 877-FTC-HELP.

The most important thing to remember when you’re hunting down scholarships: Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants. Before you pay for a scholarship service, do your homework.

About the Author

Barbara W. Thomas is passionate about the power of education to improve the quality of life. Her favorite education quote is “The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity” (A. Rand). Mrs. Thomas believes that with motivation, rational thought, and the education and support that her staff provides, her students can do anything they put their minds to.