Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
How to avoid scholarship scams
Never pay for free aid.
3 tips to avoid scholarship scams
Follow these three general guidelines to help you steer clear of illegitimate scholarship programs.
Protect your information
You generally don’t need to provide anything other than your birthday and ZIP code when you’re looking for a scholarship. Companies that ask for your email could sell the address to third parties, filling your inbox with spam. In the worst case scenario, you could get your identity stolen.
Don’t pay to find a scholarship
With plenty of free resources to find scholarships – including your high school guidance counselor — there’s no reason to pay money to get connected with scholarships. Even if a paid resource isn’t a scam, you’ll still be spending money when you don’t need to.
Trust your instincts
If something seems fishy, stay away. There are plenty of legit resources out there that don’t sound like a scam. It’s best to not take the risk.
9 telltale signs of a scholarship scam
Look out for these red flags when searching for scholarships:
- Sensitive information required. Companies that ask for your Social Security number, passport number or driver’s license could be phishing for information. You could become a victim of identity theft.
- Bank account number required. Be cautious of scholarships that ask for your checking account number to confirm your eligibility or ask you to pay a monthly or weekly fee. These companies might take money from your account without your consent or for an indefinite period of time.
- Asks for money up front. You should never have to pay money up front when you apply for a scholarship.
- Money-back guarantee. While some legit companies might help you find a scholarship for a fee, they’ll never guarantee you’ll get approved. These companies are being dishonest.
- Unsolicited scholarship offers. Emails congratulating you on being selected as a finalist for a scholarship you never applied for are usually too good to be true.
- Promises to make you eligible. No company can guarantee you’ll qualify for certain scholarship or grant programs, especially those run by the Department of Education.
- Spelling and grammar errors. One or two misplaced commas probably doesn’t spell a scam. But if there are glaring errors in prominent places, chances are it’s not a legit operation.
- Exaggerated success stories. Companies that boast stories from past customers that are hard to believe could be an indication that they’re being dishonest.
What can I do if I’ve been scammed?
There are several steps you can take if you think you’ve been a victim of a scholarship scam:
- File a complaint with the FTC. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles scam complaints on a national level. You can file a complaint on the FTC website or over the phone. It’ll share that information with federal and local law enforcement agencies to help them investigate the company.
- File a complaint with your state’s attorney general. Your state’s attorney general’s office also accepts complaints about scammers and may be able to take legal action against the company.
- Participate in a lawsuit. If neither of the other options offered a resolution you’re satisfied with, you might want to consider hiring a lawyer. You can find legit representation through organizations like the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA).
Compare top student loan providers
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Knowing the red flags and following common sense can help you stay away from most scholarship scams. And if you think you might have been the victim of one, there are several resources you can turn to for help.
To avoid problems in the future, check out our guide to finding a scholarship for legit, free resources to get you started on your search.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Tax Tips for the 2020 Filing Season
With the deadline to file extended to May 17, we asked industry experts to weigh in with their top tips.
9 steps to make the most of your debt relief program
Reduce your debt by around 30% after fees — but only if you can stick with the program. Here’s how.
7 debt relief scams to have on your radar
Don’t be fooled by false promises — here are red flags to watch out for and tips to find a legit company.
How to deal with debt when you have bad credit
Credit counseling, debt relief programs and more options to consider.
Financial infidelity in America
Have you ever lied to your S.O. about your finances?
Compare disability insurance riders
Learn which short- and long-term add-ons are free and why others might be worth the extra cost.
Pheabs installment loan connection service review
Residents of 13 states can find a lender quickly — if you’re willing to work with a new service.
Biden administration extends student loan relief until October
Most federal student loan borrowers now have eight more months of the interest-free payment freeze.
Investing goes mainstream, thanks to apps and stimulus checks
New investors, here’s what you need to know before you hit the trade button.
Find A Loan review
A standard connection service that works with lenders that offer large loans.
Ask an Expert