Education is an expensive business — and scholarships often can relieve a big part of the money burden.

But knowing this, scammers have hatched a number of schemes that aim to take your money rather than giving you any.

In this week’s issue, we’ll explain the most common current scams and the 5 key steps you can take to avoid falling victim.

And now for the main feature…


Are you, or someone among friends and family, in the running for a scholarship? If so, watch out to ensure you’re not one of the hundreds of thousands of students who get scammed every year.

According to the financial advice site, a single scholarship scam can net up to $300,000 from would-be recipients. The total haul for crooks runs into millions — every single year.

Many of the scams rely on fooling victims into believing they’re official programs by using terms like “national,” “federal,” or “administration” in their titles.

These days, as victims of many other types of scams already know, these terms are meaningless by themselves, so don’t get tricked by them.

And sometimes, many of the scams survive for years, often by operating just inside the law or by occasionally handing out a grant to one or two students, while pocketing the rest of the money they received from applicants.



These schemes are dubbed “scholarships for profit.” But they’re more like a lottery than a genuine grant program.

They invite applications from students for financial help, charging somewhere around $30 a time as a supposed application and processing fee.

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FinAid says these schemes alone pull in up to 10,000 applicants each — hence the $300,000 total.

“These scams can afford to pay out a $1,000 scholarship or two and still pocket a hefty profit, if they happen to award any scholarships at all,” the organization says. “Your odds of winning a scholarship from such scams are less than your chances of striking it rich in the lottery.”

These tricks can run for years since most people don’t realize it’s a scam. They just think they weren’t successful in their application and therefore don’t register a complaint.


Taking this trick one stage further, some scammers actually tell victims they’ve won a scholarship but have to pay an upfront fee or taxes to get their hands on the money.

Sometimes, these scams are pitched at random to students identified in mailing lists that the crooks buy. The lists are compiled both by legitimate marketing organizations and shady groups who trawl the Internet, notably social media, to identify potential victims.

Other scammers actually send out dud checks with the prize announcement, then ask the victim to wire back enough cash to pay these supposed fees.

This is just a traditional advance fee scam. The victim wires back the money then discovers the check is a fake and they’re out the amount they sent to the crooks.


Another way scammers extract money from their victims is by posing as consultants or specialist search services who offer to track down scholarships for a fee.

There may be legitimate firms that do this but the big red flag that it may be a scam is when crooks say they “guarantee” to find you a scholarship or they’ll refund your money.

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No one can make this sort of guarantee so, of course, when the scholarship doesn’t materialize nor do the consultants. Your money, which could run to several hundred dollars, is gone forever.


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