College financial aid scammers prey on Arizona students, parents
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Whether they’re applying for scholarships, searching for grants or trying to get a loan, the quest for financial aid is critical for many high school seniors preparing to head off to college. But experts say those looking for help footing the bill need to beware because their personal information is a top target for con artists. “One of the biggest things people forget is, your 18ish — 17, 18, 19-year-old — student a lot of times has a really good, clean credit record and unfortunately, that’s what scammers are after,” Melanie McGovern of the Better Business Bureau tells On Your Side.
Melanie says scammers use a variety of methods to lure students, from an email pretending to be from a prospective school to posing as a guidance counselor. “When in doubt, give the office a call and say, ‘Hey, did you send me this email?’” she says. “And they’ll let you know either way, but it’s really important to know where it’s coming from before you put any kind of personal information into any kind of portal.”
One parent shared their experience with the BBB, saying the fraudster emailed their student, asking her if she needed assistance with paying for college. The student filled out a form with their contact information. And shortly after, the scammer asked for a payment of $2,000 in order to provide assistance with scholarships. “A lot of times, you don’t have to do that. There are so many free resources for students to apply for scholarships all over the country,” Melanie says.
The Federal Trade Commission also shared ways to spot the scams. The agency says the signs of potential financial aid scams are when someone tells you that a scholarship is guaranteed or your money back, if someone says you just need to give your credit card or bank account number to hold on to a scholarship, or if they say you’re a finalist for a contest you didn’t enter.
If you still have doubts, Melanie says don’t be afraid to ask questions and says, “legitimate companies will always answer them and always give you the time. If someone is giving you a lot of pressure, you have act now, you have to act now. Those are always the big red flag to walk away.”
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