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Can you spot a scholarship scam?

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Fight back

If you or your child suspects a scam, bring a copy of all literature and correspondence to your child's school guidance office or to a financial aid administrator at a local college for advice. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau, your State Bureau of Consumer Protection, your State Attorney General's Office, or report the offer to the National Fraud Information Center.

For more information

Scholarship Scams from provides advice on how to identify scams, how to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent organizations, how to protect yourself from scholarship scams, and what to do if you are scammed.

Other financial aid scams

Parents who feel intimidated by the financial aid process often turn to financial aid consultants. But beware, some of these services can be shady, and financial aid officers often resent the intervention of outside professionals in the aid package award process.

Do you really need a financial aid consultant?

Financial aid consultants advertise their ability to help families through complicated financial aid forms and provide tricks to getting through the system. But financial aid forms are relatively simple, and a high school counselor will give you advice for free.

Also, there are not really any tricks to the financial aid system. It is the job of financial aid officers to ensure that once your child is accepted you can pay for the college. They are not trying to hoard money, but give it away.

Financial aid officers make funding decisions based on the school's award criteria and funds available. The aid officer is your best ally in this process; no independent service is likely to influence it. Aid officers will also know about state funding and other opportunities to apply for aid.

Financial aid consultants may suggest moving assets around or transacting a major purchase or gift to reduce income and qualify for more aid. This should set off your alarm bells. First, administrators can easily spot this kind of maneuvering. If they suspect they are being deceived, colleges may refuse to consider the financial aid application.

Professionals may also promise to use your child's credentials to bargain for the best deal at various colleges. Colleges usually have strict financial aid award guidelines, and they will not bargain for students with other institutions. If you feel important financial information has been overlooked in your aid award, you and your child should certainly contact the school's financial aid office to contest the award. Financial aid offices are unlikely to be willing to discuss these circumstances with a professional consultant.

Comments from readers

"Tell us how you got scam and what inspired you to provide us (parents of soon to be college students)this information and please be specific on the details. I have a personal trainer for gym and a personal chef that comes to cook so why not pay a proven and professional college consultant to get the most bang out of the invisble $$$ out there for my child. Comment of the lack of counselor in our school systems and how these counselor are now becoming independent business owner doing the college consultantancy work. Take us inside the college finance board room and show us the business of it all. Teach us how to rotate entitlement $$$ these insitutions recieve each day and year in the millions."
"Great information. There are alot of sites sending incorrect info. One doesn't know who is telling the truth. You guys I do trust. Thank you"