Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Don’t make college more expensive by falling for financial aid scams

Release Date: Aug 31, 2015

Cool breezes have been felt in Kansas the past few weeks as summer starts turning to fall. That also means many students are heading back to schools and college campuses across Kansas. While these campuses are great environments for learning, they can also be ripe territory for scam artists looking to make a quick buck.

With the rising costs of attending college, many scam artists have targeted college students with offers to help them get financial aid or scholarships. These fraudsters often use sales pitches guaranteeing they can help students get scholarships or financial aid in exchange for an advance fee. Sometimes, they ask for a checking account or credit card number so they can automatically charge the fee each week or month, but never produce the promised scholarships or aid packages.

The truth is this: our colleges and universities and many private foundations offer thousands of scholarships each year – and applying for them is free. To find out if you’re eligible for student loans, use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available at www.fafsa.ed.gov, which – as its name implies – is also free.

If you need help finding or applying for any of these scholarship or financial aid opportunities, check with your college’s financial aid office. For high school students, your guidance counselor can be a great resource for finding scholarship opportunities. There are many free resources available, so you don’t need to pay someone who may or may not actually deliver on promised results.

If you do choose to use a paid service to help you search for scholarships, do your research and ask plenty of questions. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics and any service that “guarantees” they will find you free money. Beware of “success stories” that might be exaggerated or entirely untrue. Get a full list of fees charged, when they will be charged and the company’s refund policy in writing before making any commitments. Don’t give the company direct access to debit your bank account. Instead, pay with a credit card, which gives you the ability to dispute charges you didn’t agree to.

For more information on staying safe from scams, visit our consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or call (800) 432-2310.

 

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