Grant and Scholarship Scams

Last updated on November 15, 2017

You’ve heard it before: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! That’s as true of scholarship and grant offers as it is of any other kind of scam. Phony offers of free money for college are all over the Internet and the telephone lines.

In one popular scam, telephone solicitors promise to deliver free money or unclaimed college scholarships for a fee—sometimes as high as $200. The fee is immediately deducted from the victim’s bank account, but no “free money” ever shows up.

Learn how to tell the difference between an offer that’s bona fide and one that’s bogus.

It’s a Scam If . . .

  • You’re asked to give a social security, credit card or bank account number. Never divulge this kind of information to an unsolicited caller for any reason.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee. You can find all the scholarship information you need for free.
  • The scholarship is guaranteed or “your money back.”
  • You’re told you have to buy now or miss the opportunity forever.
  • You’re told you’re a finalist in a contest you never entered.

Be careful of for-profit scholarship search and “financial aid” companies too. Some pass themselves off as official government agencies. Others charge high rates for the information you can get for free—not illegal, but unethical.

Some companies will invite you or your parents to come to a session supposedly on college planning that turns out to be nothing more than a sales pitch for their services. The Department of Education recommends that families check out all such invitations with the Better Business Bureau, and ask for recommendations from local families. Of course, if you do sign up with a financial aid service, get everything in writing and check the fine print

Read more about spotting scams and browse through some recent schemes involving government grants.