BBB: Avoid College Financial Aid Red Flags

Scholarships and grants are a large part of the education planning process for parents and students. The process of applying for financial aid is often confusing and frustrating. Some companies claim they can help, but only end up charging unnecessary fees.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) recommends doing your research before paying a company to find financial aid for college.

“Money is tight and tuition costs are rising,” said Ran Hoth, CEO/president of the Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin. “Scholarships and grants are essential for getting students through college for many families. Unfortunately, some companies try to take advantage of struggling families looking for funding, by charging for phony grants and scholarships. Scholarships and grants will never cost you money.”

The BBB recommends listening for the following red flags when receiving a sales pitch from a financial-aid advisor:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
    In reality no one can guarantee they will get you a grant or scholarship. The refund guarantee offers usually have many conditions or strings attached making it is almost impossible for consumers to get their money back.
  • “You cannot get this information anywhere else.”
    Scholarship information is widely available, for free, in libraries, financial aid offices and often very conveniently on the internet.
  • “You have been selected by a foundation to receive a scholarship.”
    If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.
  • “May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?”
    This is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
    Legitimate scholarship offers never require payment of any kind.
  • “What is your Social Security number?” 
    You should never share your Social Security or other  personal information over the phone to an unknown caller.

For more information on finding financial aid for school, visit www.fafsa.gov. For more information on managing personal finances and avoiding scams visit bbb.org. For an online version of the story, click here.