Psst…Want the Inside Track on College Aid?

“Hey, do you need money for college? We’ve got the secret formula and the inside connections that you need to get college money.”   Does that sound familiar?  If you are applying to colleges or have a college-bound child, these types of promises might sound familiar.  With tuition escalating, many people fall prey to various scam artists or companies charging fees for services available elsewhere for free. Don’t let this happen to you!  Watch out for these traps.

Financial Aid Support Services

This may come in the form of consultants, seminars, or agents that charge hundreds of dollars to more than a thousand dollars for their services. Often these firms use scare tactics that you must act now or you will miss opportunities.  They aim to convince you that you could never navigate the system without an expert.  Some are brazen enough to guarantee that you’ll get aid.  Maybe they will get you aid.  Is the aid you receive worth the fee you are paying upfront?  The bottom line is that you CAN navigate the system yourself.  The U.S. government and most colleges provide resources to make it simple.  

My advice:  Don’t pay for these services.  You can do it yourself for free. Start by visiting this site:  www.studentaid.ed.gov

Identity Theft

One of the fastest growing areas of identity theft is perpetrated against minors.   Identity thieves are constantly seeking ways to gain names and Social Security numbers.  With this stolen data, thieves able to illegally obtain credit cards, loans, and cell phone accounts.  Often you don’t know you are a victim until much later.  While applying for entry to colleges, students are vulnerable.  It may come in the form of a fraudulent contest, phony grant offer, or other deceptive means to get a Social Security number.

My advice:  Never share your Social Security number with unverified sources. Guard your Social Security at all times. For example, when applying for federal aid through fafsa.gov, you will receive a PIN.  Never reveal your FAFSA PIN to anyone.

Scholarship Scams

How exciting to receive a message that you are a finalist for a scholarship!  Funny, you don’t recall applying to that one.  That should be a red flag that something is not right.  Also beware of solicitations to register to access the ultimate database of scholarships.  After registering, your name will likely be sold to multiple marketers selling everything from cell phone services to credit cards. Some unethical companies guarantee that they can get scholarships on behalf of students in exchange for an advance fee. Most provide no services other than access to a website with a list of scholarship opportunities.

My advice:  Talk to your college’s financial aid office to obtain lists of legitimate scholarships. Most schools are eager to help and provide this information at no charge. Never pay for scholarship lists or application services.

As the cost of college increases, these scams will also become more prevalent.  Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics or fall for the scam that you are not capable of accessing loans and aid on your own.  You can do it!  Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General.

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Psst…Want the Inside Track on College Aid?

“Hey, do you need money for college? We’ve got the secret formula and the inside connections that you need to get college money.”   Does that sound familiar?  If you are applying to colleges or have a college-bound child, these types of promises might sound familiar.  With tuition escalating, many people fall prey to various scam artists or companies charging fees for services available elsewhere for free. Don’t let this happen to you!  Watch out for these traps.

Financial Aid Support Services

This may come in the form of consultants, seminars, or agents that charge hundreds of dollars to more than a thousand dollars for their services. Often these firms use scare tactics that you must act now or you will miss opportunities.  They aim to convince you that you could never navigate the system without an expert.  Some are brazen enough to guarantee that you’ll get aid.  Maybe they will get you aid.  Is the aid you receive worth the fee you are paying upfront?  The bottom line is that you CAN navigate the system yourself.  The U.S. government and most colleges provide resources to make it simple.  

My advice:  Don’t pay for these services.  You can do it yourself for free. Start by visiting this site:  www.studentaid.ed.gov

Identity Theft

One of the fastest growing areas of identity theft is perpetrated against minors.   Identity thieves are constantly seeking ways to gain names and Social Security numbers.  With this stolen data, thieves able to illegally obtain credit cards, loans, and cell phone accounts.  Often you don’t know you are a victim until much later.  While applying for entry to colleges, students are vulnerable.  It may come in the form of a fraudulent contest, phony grant offer, or other deceptive means to get a Social Security number.

My advice:  Never share your Social Security number with unverified sources. Guard your Social Security at all times. For example, when applying for federal aid through fafsa.gov, you will receive a PIN.  Never reveal your FAFSA PIN to anyone.

Scholarship Scams

How exciting to receive a message that you are a finalist for a scholarship!  Funny, you don’t recall applying to that one.  That should be a red flag that something is not right.  Also beware of solicitations to register to access the ultimate database of scholarships.  After registering, your name will likely be sold to multiple marketers selling everything from cell phone services to credit cards. Some unethical companies guarantee that they can get scholarships on behalf of students in exchange for an advance fee. Most provide no services other than access to a website with a list of scholarship opportunities.

My advice:  Talk to your college’s financial aid office to obtain lists of legitimate scholarships. Most schools are eager to help and provide this information at no charge. Never pay for scholarship lists or application services.

As the cost of college increases, these scams will also become more prevalent.  Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics or fall for the scam that you are not capable of accessing loans and aid on your own.  You can do it!  Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General.

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