Scholarship scams! How to spot and avoid them!

Here’s the full article! by Aimee O’Driscoll and the link: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/scholarship-scams/ 

How to spot and avoid scams

Scammers can be very crafty and scholarship scams may be difficult to spot, especially when you’re ever so hopeful that someone really does want to help you pay for your education. Here are some tips for spotting and avoiding these types of schemes.

Here’s how to avoid Scholarship scams:

  1. Question if it’s too good to be true
  2. Be wary of a sense of urgency
  3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag
  4. Question money-back guarantees
  5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds
  6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization
  7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites
  8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

Let’s delve into those in more detail:

1. Question if it’s too good to be true

Use common sense and question how likely it is that the information being presented is legitimate. Let’s face it: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Be wary of a sense of urgency

While some scholarships do have deadlines, you likely wouldn’t be contacted a few hours or days beforehand. In fact, it’s unlikely that someone providing a real scholarship would ever contact you asking you to apply. Crooks use the tactic of creating a sense of urgency to throw you off your guard and comply with whatever they’re asking.

For example, below is a June 2019 scam report from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker. This scholarship scam phishing email included a timeframe within which the recipient should respond (24 hours). Otherwise, the sender threatened, someone else would be selected for the scholarship.

A BBB Scam Tracker post.

3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag

If an organization is promising exclusive access to a scholarship, question whether this would make sense. Information about the vast majority of scholarships is made publicly available so that everyone who is eligible will have an equal opportunity to apply.

4. Question money-back guarantees

Some fraudsters will use a money-back guarantee offer to persuade you to pay them a fee. But let’s face it, the only way they’d be able to guarantee you a scholarship is if the process is rigged. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) highlights:

Legitimate companies never guarantee or promise scholarships or grants.

Another claim that may be used to attract your attention is the promise that everyone is eligible. Of course, for a real scholarship, there is a set of criteria that applicants have to meet to be considered for the prize.

5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds

There has long been a myth circulating that millions of dollars in scholarship funds go unclaimed every year. In reality, this is a ploy to help persuade more students to hand over their information or money to apply for bogus scholarships.

6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization

Plenty of scammers will claim to have ties with an organization that you recognize. Some will go a step further and pose as that organization, for example by using its logo and possibly even an email address and web domain that looks like it’s from the company. Investigate the organization thoroughly before handing over any information.

7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites

Some phishing schemes are easy to spot while others are sophisticated and very deceiving. Key things to look out for are poor spelling and grammar, an email domain that doesn’t quite match the organization’s name, and links that appear to go to different domains (hovering over a link will show you where it’s going to send you).

If you do end up clicking through to a website, tell-tale signs of a phishing site include lack of contact and “about us” information and outdated copyright information.

8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

When you apply for a scholarship, you’re going to have to hand over some information. But if an organization is asking for things like your social security number or banking information right off the bat, then it is likely a scam. Even for seemingly innocuous information like your name, address, and phone number, you should fully vet the organization before sending.

How to report scholarship scams

Do you suspect someone is trying to scam you? Or have you or someone you know already fallen victim to a scholarship scam? The government is aware that such scams are taking place and has taken steps to prevent it, including devising the College Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-420), which created enhanced penalties for scholarship fraud.

However, law enforcement agencies still struggle to prosecute in such cases, often due to lack of information and evidence. Many people simply don’t report scams, often because they feel ashamed or believe they have no hope of getting their money back. Just bear in mind that reporting scams can help to alleviate the problem by providing authorities with additional information and raising overall awareness.

We have an article dedicated to reporting scams but here’s a handy list of contacts for the US and a few other countries:

US

UK

Canada

Australia

Where to find information about legitimate scholarships

We’ve covered a lot of information about how to avoid scholarship scams, but what about finding the real deal? Thankfully there are plenty of organizations out there that genuinely want to help. Here are some places to look:

Just bear in mind that certain scam sites may find their way into some of these searches, so it’s always good to think twice and do some thorough checks before submitting your information.

Used by permission. Please go to the link for the full article.