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Oklahoma State University

Finding Financial Aid without being Scammed

Looking for money to pay for college? Keep both eyes open and a skeptical outlook as you evaluate emails, web advertisements, social media sites, and letters. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"Enter Our Scholarship Drawing..."

You're used to seeing advertisements for a free product if you preview or use the services of a company. This is nothing new; banks used to give out free toasters to those who opened new accounts and companies give away all sorts of "gifts" for checking out their services. You should evaluate these deals just as you would any other marketing campaign.

  • You may see these as emails, social media pages, or text messages where you are entered in a scholarship drawing once you provide personal information, like your name, phone number, and email address.
  • Some companies require you to click through other advertisements before you are entered in the scholarship drawing.
  • Some companies require you to 'like' their social media page to be entered in the scholarship drawing.
  • Review the Privacy Policies and Terms/Conditions before you click submit. Some companies will provide your personal information to all of the companies you 'visit' when you click on ads and you are giving them approval to do so when you submit your information.

Scholarship Search Services:

Some companies advertise that they can get students access to millions of dollars in grants and scholarships. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) devotes an entire section of its website to scholarship scams, and offers the following tips:

  • Determine whether the company is actually offering a scholarship or is simply a scholarship search service. If the company claims to actually award a scholarship, be aware that most scholarship sponsors don't charge up-front fees to apply for funding, and no legitimate scholarship sponsor can guaranteethat you will win an award.
  • Understand that scholarship search services don't award scholarships. They charge a fee to compare your profile with a database of scholarship opportunities and provide a list of awards for which you might qualify. They don't provide awards directly to applicants, nor do they help students apply for the awards.
  • Don't give out credit card or bank account information on the phone or over the Internet without getting information in writing first. It might be a set-up for an unauthorized charge or withdrawal.

Paying for Help with the FAFSA:

Remember that the first word in "Free Application for Federal Student Aid" (FAFSA) is FREE! You should never have to pay for information about filing the FAFSA or the financial aid programs available to you. When filing the FAFSA be sure you go to the website that ends in .gov, as in www.fafsa.gov.

Reporting Scholarship Scams and Suspected Financial Aid Fraud:

If you feel that you have become a victim of a scholarship scam or financial aid fraud, please report it immediately.

  • U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG): The OIG may be contacted by calling its hotline at 1-800-MIS-USED (1-800-647-8733), emailing oig.hotline@ed.gov, or by completing a complaint form. Special agents in the OIG investigate fraud involving federal financial aid dollars.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC has an on-line complaint formand a hotline at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Additional Resources and Information: