Navigating the process of applying for financial aid and scholarships can be confusing. There are companies that claim they can help, but some only provide assistance students can get for free elsewhere. Better Business Bureau recommends researching college financial aid and scholarship offers before purchasing services from a company.
BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington encourages caution to avoid schemes.
- Seminar scams. Consumers receive invitations to free financial aid seminars, which can be misleading high-pressure sales pitches.
- Government grant swindles. Some imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders or scholarship matching services. They may use words like "national," "federal," "foundation," and "administration" in their titles. However, they charge for services government aids give for free.
- Fake check tricks. Students receive checks by mail claiming they won a government grant or scholarship. Instructions say to deposit checks and send a portion to pay for taxes or fees. The check turns out to be fake or stolen and forwarded money was sent to a scam artist. Students may have to pay back funds to the rightful owner.
Every year, BBB receives complaints on companies promising to find scholarships and grants, but ultimately don't deliver. Certain companies are getting complaints from consumers across the nation, including Oregon and Washington:
· Edifi-College Financial Aid, located in New York, sends prospective college students a letter explaining they have been selected for a personal interview. Students who call for their interview are scheduled for a financial aid seminar along with other students and parents. Complainants say they attended the seminar and later paid more than $1,000 for help finding aid, but the services offered were mostly assistance in filling out financial aid forms.
· J.E.C.C., Inc. is located in Florida. Complainants say they thought they were taking advantage of a free trial CD-ROM on how to get federal grants for college. Some were charged as much as $69 even before receiving the information in the mail and those who did receive the information complained it wasn’t helpful.
When receiving a sales pitch about financial aid or scholarship offers, know the red flag statements to avoid. Check out companies at www.bbb.org.