Scholarship and Financial Aid Seminar Fraud
You should never have to pay to find out about scholarships. Scholarship scams claim to give you a leg up as a scholarship applicant as a paid service. To alert consumers to fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers guidelines and services to help you avoid unscrupulous vendors of scholarship search products.
The FTC provides information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid scholarship scams. One of the scams that the FTC has warned consumers about is the "financial aid" or "scholarship" seminars. They suggest keeping the following in mind if you decide to attend a seminar:
- Take your time. Don't be rushed into paying at the seminar. Avoid high-pressure sales pitches that require you to "buy now or risk losing out" on the opportunity. Solid opportunities are not sold through nerve-racking tactics.
- Investigate the organization you're considering paying for help. Talk to a guidance counselor or financial aid adviser at the University before spending your money. You may be able to get the same help for free.
- Be wary of "success stories" or testimonials of extraordinary success. Instead, ask for a list of at least three local families who have used the services in the last year. Ask each if they are satisfied with the products and services received.
- Be cautious about purchasing from seminar representatives who are reluctant to answer questions or who give evasive answers to your questions. Legitimate business people are more than willing to give you information about their services.
- Ask how much money is charged for the service, what services will be performed, and the company's refund policy. Get this information in writing. Keep in mind that you may never recoup the money you give to an unscrupulous operator, despite stated refund policies.