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Beware of the Fraudulent Aid Programs

As the deadline for applications are only months away, high school seniors have their eyes on college scholarships or financial aid for higher education. This is the high season for frauds and cheats that pose as organizations helping students to avail financial aid to carry out studies at colleges. These scammers usually target the parents of the teenage students and swarm their mailboxes with letters or inboxes with e-mails; sometimes they even contact over the phone. They will be making their pitches any way they can; so beware of the fraud aid programs and pay no attention to them. There have been complaints about these frauds to the US Department of Education, the Justice Department and the Federal trade Commission and the College Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act of 2000 is still working.

The bogus scholarship and grant search firms claim to have inside knowledge of scholarships and financial aid. That is a pure nonsense; all the information about financial aids for college students is public knowledge. The different universities that offer scholarships, bursaries, aids and grants to students, publish the details on their websites. Besides, you can gather adequate knowledge about applying for financial aid through high school student-councilors as well. To attract customers, these frauds also give you money back guarantee in case your application is not successful. That is another lie; there will never be any money back and you will know that once you read their “fine prints” carefully.

The scammers also make a provision of weekly or monthly fees. This is probably part of a bigger scam as they will somehow get authorization to debit your checking account or take money out of your credit card. Sometimes they will pose innocently to seek your teen’s bank account information to confirm eligibility. You know what to do; anyone asking for your or your son’s/daughter’s bank account information or credit card information, consider that entity as a cheat and never give the “company” what it wants. There are websites that offer to help you to apply for scholarships for a fee; don’t fall for their tricks as you can take help from the Department of Education and it won’t cost you a dime.

It is time to raise awareness against such scammers and thieves that prey on young people’s aspiration to acquire higher degrees from colleges and universities. Once you feel like someone is approaching you via e-mail or phone with fraudulent method, report that guy (or the organization) to the proper authorities. The Federal Trade Commission received 501 such complains back in 2011 and the Education Department gets thousands of complaints every year, while the Justice Department prosecuted 16 fraud cases related to financial aid scams.

You really don’t need any commercial help for information or as a process to apply for students’ financial aid. A little leg work on your part and talking to the right person(s) seem to be sufficient for guidance in applying for a scholarship or an aid. The sign of a legitimate organization is that it won’t ask you to pay an upfront fee. You can always rely on FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and apply for aid on their website.

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