We hate to have to write a post like this, but it’s a sad reality: scams and identity theft aren’t absent from the world of college financial aid. StudentAid.gov offers great advice about this and how to avoid it, and here are a few key takeaways:
1) There is a lot of free information already out there. Before you agree to pay someone for an “opportunity” or for “guaranteed funding,” pause, and then do your own research first.
2) You should never pay to complete the FAFSA, apply for a scholarship, or get help administering your student loans. The FAFSA is a free application, there are plenty of scholarships out there without an application fee, and a loan servicer helps you administer your student loans for free.
3) Protect your personal information. Your name, date of birth, social security number, credit card information, and bank account information are all valuable to identity thefts. Don’t give it out to unknown callers promising funding, for example, and make sure the site you’re using to submit that information is secure (the FAFSA website, for example, is encrypted).
4) Report fraudulent activity to make others aware. For example, the U.S. Department of Education even posts well-known scams on this site.
In other words, be vigilant and do your research. Save yourself and your money!