With the rising cost of a quality college education, scholarships are a crucial part of funding tuition, living expenses and other academic fees. This makes students and families the perfect target for scammers or fraudulent businesses, hoping to make money off of individuals seeking financial assistance for college. Find out what to look out for so you can avoid risky scholarship scams now and in the future.

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Know Key Phrases to Avoid

Many scholarship scams start with sales tag lines designed to entice unsuspecting families into giving out their personal information or bank account details. There are many key phrases to be aware of, especially the ones below:

  • “We’ll do all the work for you – for a small fee.”
  • “We just need your credit card details to hold this scholarship offer.”
  • “Guaranteed scholarship or your money back.”
  • “Attend this free seminar to get your scholarship money.”

Generally speaking, any legitimate scholarship offer will require some form of effort from the student applying, usually in the form of an essay or other written work. Additionally, scholarships cannot be guaranteed, no matter the qualifications of the company claiming to secure scholarship funds and awards “for a fee.”

Look for Legitimate Free Help First

The best legitimate scholarships and other forms of financial aid are offered either through universities themselves or through the federal government in the form of grants, work-study programs and other opportunities. To determine your eligibility for financial aid funds without turning to bogus seminars or fraudulent scholarships, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online and submit it yourself.

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Be Wary of Scholarship Seminars

There are many companies that host free scholarship seminars, but hide important aspects of their business processes from students and their families. Seminar representatives are notorious for hooking customers in, making dazzling promises and then refusing to provide additional assistance without a fee or down payment.

If you do attend a seminar and decide to make payments to the company offering scholarship assistance, do your research! Ask for a detailed breakdown of where your money will be used and the services that you will receive with your payment, and use extreme caution if a representative refuses to give you this information.

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Get an Expert Opinion

When in doubt – consult an expert. If you receive any scholarship offers from companies or foundations that don’t seem entirely legitimate, ask a qualified expert at your bank or credit union to review the offer. You can also consult with a high school guidance counselor or academic advisor at a specific college or university for help with scholarship offers, financial aid packages or any other information you need. Advisors and counselors are there specifically to help families and students pay for college – so take advantage of the resource!

Let MNFCU Help You Finance Your College Education

Whether you need a scholarship offer reviewed, a checking account opened or a student loan to help pay for your upcoming educational expenses, MNFCU can help. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can answer all of your personal banking questions to help you secure a happy financial future.