How To Spot And Avoid Scholarship Scams
Getting a scholarship is a dream that most students aspire to, and because of this, many students fall prey to online scams that pretend to be scholarship opportunities.
This blog will look at how to avoid these scams so that you can focus on getting that scholarship instead. I will advise you to read this post to the end so you don’t become a victim.
In today’s society, we are continually looking for ways to better our lives and those we love. One of the best paths is through education. We’ve all heard the saying, “an educated mind is a mind for success.” This is why scholarships are so popular today.
Unfortunately, with the popularity of scholarships, they are also a popular target for scammers. So in this piece of content, I will reveal the tricks scammers use and how to be on your guard.
At Scholarship-Programs.Org, we only provide you with the best information regarding scholarships and grants. So don’t be in a hurry to skim through this post. We want to help you and your family get the best scholarship offers on this internet.
Scholarship and financial aid scams often start with a social media post, email, or a letter in the mail. It might look like a personalized invitation, saying you’ve been selected for a particular scholarship or financial aid package.
Sometimes, there’s a callback number or details about an in-person workshop at a local hotel. But these calls and events are high-pressure sales pitches where they pressure you to pay for their services immediately — or risk losing out on these “special” scholarships or financial aid packages.
Scholarship scams take advantage of students looking to help fund their education. We reveal how to spot and avoid common scholarship scams and what to do if you’ve been caught out by one.
Let’s get started!
Common Types Of Scholarship Scams
First, I would like us to look at the most common types of scholarship scams spreading online today. Scholarship scams come in many forms but often follow the pattern of traditional schemes, such as phishing schemes and overpayment scams.
The promise of a scholarship is what the fraudster running the scam has chosen as their guise, and they are specifically targeting students.
Below are the various Scholarship scams you should look out for online:
A phishing scheme often starts with emails sent to many recipients, but communication may begin via a phone call or SMS message. The idea is that the scammer is “phishing” for information, such as your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, or banking information.
Here are a few phishing email scenarios:
- The email requests information such as your address and phone number and promises to send more information about a scholarship.
- There’s an application form attached to the email that the sender wants you to complete and send back.
- The email includes a link to an application form on a legitimate-looking website, a “phishing site” designed to steal your information.
In each case, chances are, instead of getting information about or applying for a scholarship, you’re just sending detailed information that a scammer could use in various types of fraud, even identity theft.
These emails could be sent out indiscriminately by the thousands in the hopes that they will trick at least some unsuspecting students. However, in other cases, attacks could be targeted (known as spear phishing).
For example, a criminal could obtain a student email list for a particular university and craft a very convincing phishing scheme to defraud those students.
A clear example is the phishing scam that happened in 2016 at Queen Mary University London. According to the BBC report, students received an email from the schools’ financial aid department (complete with the school logo) offering a government educational grant.
They were asked to hand over personal and banking information to receive the grant. Thieves then used these details to withdraw funds from at least one student’s bank account.
Like a phishing scheme, an advanced-fee scam is often initiated via email. In this case, the scammer will ask for a fee to be paid. This could, for example, be in return for more information or for your application to be submitted.
This should be a huge red flag, and information about scholarships should be available publicly and for free. In other advance-fee scams, you’re told you’ve been selected for a scholarship you haven’t even applied for.
There’s often the catch that you need to pay some transfer or administration fee before you can get the money. In reality, no money will ever be sent your way.
Some fee-based scholarship scammers go to great lengths to make their scheme appear legitimate, often by genuinely awarding a large scholarship.
While this might not sound like a scam, imagine that 20,000 people pay an application fee of $10. If the organizers pay out a $40,000 scholarship, they still get to walk away with $160,000 in their pockets.
Moreover, their reputation remains intact, so they can carry out the ruse over and over, even targeting the same individuals.
Sales Pitch Schemes
You may be invited to a seminar on the topic in your quest to find a scholarship. Be very wary of these as they can turn into high-pressure sales pitches.
There’s a high risk that the organizers will take some fee and either walk away with the money or pay a nominal amount to make the whole thing look legitimate.
Some organizations purport to be helping people with scholarships but instead are using the guise to try to sell other products or services. This tactic might be used by firms selling insurance or investment products.
Usually, they are things you don’t need or want and can’t afford anyway. If you’re invited to a scholarship seminar or one-on-one interview regarding financial aid, there’s a chance that this is where it’s heading.
Overpayment scams are very tricky to weed out and can be used for many products and services, including scholarships. The thing about these scams is they play on your trust as there is an upfront payment (to you) involved. Here’s the gist:
- You receive a letter stating you have been selected for a scholarship. A check comes in the mail with the letter or shortly afterwards. Delighted, you deposit the check in your bank account.
- Very soon after the check arrives, you receive a letter or email stating there has been an overpayment of part of the sum.
- Still content with receiving at least some money, you send back the portion that was “overpaid.”
- The check never clears, and you are now out of pocket for the “overpayment.”
Criminals will even set up a legitimate-looking application process before putting the overpayment scheme into action.
Lottery-based scholarships are not necessarily scams, but they may be something you want to avoid. These typically work when you complete surveys in return for entry into a prize draw (the prize being a scholarship).
There are many legitimate lottery-based scholarships out there that do pay out money to the winner. But there is a catch. No real skill is required to win these lotteries, but a winner is drawn randomly.
The company providing the scholarship makes money off the information you provide when you complete a survey by selling it to third parties, and they then pay out a small portion of this profit as a scholarship.
This is similar to some fee-based schemes as discussed above. But instead of paying money to enter, you’re giving up your personal information.
In this model, the organization needs many applicants to make the scheme profitable. As a result, your chances of winning are very slim. The odds may be no better (or worse) than when you buy a scratch card from your local convenience store.
How To Spot And Avoid Scholarship Scams
Scammers can be very crafty, and scholarship scams may be difficult to spot, especially when you’re ever so hopeful that someone does want to help you pay for your education. Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding these types of schemes:
#1. Learn To Spot Phishing Emails And Websites
Some phishing schemes are easy to spot, while others are sophisticated and deceiving. Key things to look out for are:
- Poor spelling and grammar.
- An email domain that doesn’t quite match the organization’s name.
If you do end up clicking through to a website, the tell-tale signs of a phishing site include lack of contact, “about us” information, and outdated copyright information.
#2. Question If It’s Too Good To Be True
Use common sense and question how likely the information being presented is legitimate. Let’s face it: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
#3. The Promise Of Exclusive Information Should Be A Red Flag
If an organization promises exclusive access to a scholarship, question whether this would make sense. Information about the vast majority of scholarships is made publicly available so that everyone eligible will have an equal opportunity to apply.
#4. Be Wary Of A Sense Of Urgency
While some scholarships have deadlines, you likely wouldn’t be contacted a few hours or days beforehand. It’s unlikely that someone providing a real scholarship would ever get you asking you to apply.
Crooks use the tactic of creating a sense of urgency to throw you off your guard and comply with whatever they’re asking.
#5. Question Money-back Guarantees
Some fraudsters will use a money-back guarantee offer to persuade you to pay them a fee. But let’s face it, the only way they’d be able to guarantee you a scholarship is if the process is rigged. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlights:
Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.
Another claim they may use to attract your attention is the promise that everyone is eligible. Of course, for a real scholarship, there is a set of criteria that applicants have to meet to be considered for the prize.
We hope this blog was able to help those students who are searching for a scholarship. It’s important to be careful with how you use any available scholarship because there are many scholarship scams.
Make sure to only trust sites you know, like Scholarship-Programs.Org, for all available scholarship news. If you have any questions about scholarships or have any comments, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us in the comment section below.