It seems those who are looking to steal personal information from unsuspecting people are always looking to prey on those in need of money. When you begin the search for a school scholarship, you enter this field and put yourself up as a target for identity thieves. The good news is that most scholarship opportunities are legitimate and should be pursued, but as you look for money for school, take steps to ensure that the search is done safely.
Many scams pose as scholarship search services. While many of these programs are completely legitimate, some are not. Scholarship search services offer students the ability to pay a fee for someone else to search for scholarships that match their information. This can be a good idea, but students can do what the scholarship search service does on their own as well.
So how can a student know the difference between a scam and a legitimate service? First, watch out for services that guarantee results. This is not possible. There are simply too few scholarships out there for the number of people who are looking for them. If there is a money back guarantee, be sure to read all of the fine print, as you may just find that it is not so easy to get your money back as you might be led to believe.
Second, scammers will claim that they will do all of the work for you. This is impossible. You are the only one who can fill in the scholarship application if the service finds one that matches your profile. Having someone else do the application essay, for example, would constitute fraud.
If the service claims to have information that cannot be found anywhere else, it is lying. There is a book called Scholarships, Grants and Prizes by Peterson that offers information on almost every scholarship out there. You can also get the information from your guidance office or the Internet. Avoid a service making this claim.
Finally, look out for scholarships that cost money. If you have to pay money to actually receive a scholarship, not simply for the service to do the search, or if your credit card number is required in advance of receiving the scholarship, run the other way. This is a scam, and you stand to lose a lot of money from the identity thief on the other end. Paying for services is fine, but paying for the actual award is not.
If you are unsure about a company or program, check with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC website has many resources available for those looking for a scholarship, and their services are free. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, take a closer look, and get everything in writing before you spend any money on scholarship search services.