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Watch Out for the Newest College Scholarship Scams

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As if students don’t have enough concerns about paying for college, here’s another one: scholarship scams.

A recent alert from Fraud.org outlined the red flags students and their families should look out for when searching for scholarship money, focusing on what you should (and should not) expect from scholarship-matching services.

Don’t Be Fooled

The good news is there are a lot of scholarships out there, so if you qualify for them and need the money, it’s worth your time to apply. The trick is that scholarships tend to be very competitive and often carry specific qualifications — you also have to know about them (and their deadlines) to have a shot at the money.

Here’s where scholarship-matching services and scams come in: These databases compile scholarships for which you may qualify, based on the information you enter into their systems. What they do not do: apply for you or select winners.

There is no end-all, be-all of scholarship matching services that will give you a leg up on the competition, though that’s what these scammers want you to believe. According to Fraud.org, the service might be a scam if it claims you must use it to qualify for aid, says scholarships are rewarded on a first-come, first-served basis or guarantees aid.

Bottom Line

The most important thing to know is that you shouldn’t have to pay to find a scholarship. Fee-based scholarship searches won’t give you better results, and Fraud.org says the best services are free online.

If you’re looking into financial aid options, your first stop should be the FAFSA (free application for federal student aid) to see if you qualify. Student loans aren’t inherently evil, either. You just need to make sure you don’t take on more debt than you need or can afford to repay.

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