Beware of Scholarship "Scams"

Nine signs of college scholarship scams

To protect yourself from scholarship scams, look for these warning signs.

1. Application Fees: Stay clear of any scholarships that require you to pay a “small processing fee”, even if it’s just a few dollars. Legitimate scholarships want to give you money, not take it away.

2. No phone number: Be extremely wary of any scholarship opportunities that don’t provide a telephone number. A lot of scholarship scams don’t give out phone numbers because they’re too easy to trace.

3. Open to everyone: The majority of private scholarship providers choose to award scholarships to students who fit a certain set of criteria.

4. No proof of past winners: Try Google searching the scholarship and look for evidence of past winners. This isn’t always the case, though. New scholarships don’t have past winners.

5. Fake nonprofit or federal status: Even if a company has a Washington D.C. address or its name sounds official, beware. It could easily be fake and just because its name has the word “Foundation” or “Fund” in it, that doesn’t necessarily make it a nonprofit.

6. Request for personal financial information: It’s completely unnecessary for a legitimate scholarship provider to ask you to provide a credit card, bank account or social security number.

7. Winning a scholarship that you did not apply to: If you get a call (or Email) from a scholarship provider proclaiming that you’ve just won a scholarship, but you have no idea who they are and have never submitted an application for that particular scholarship, it’s most likely not legitimate.

8. Claims that they’ll do all the work for you: It takes a lot of work to apply for scholarships.

9. Search fees and claims “you can’t get this information anywhere else”. There are many excellent scholarship search engines that are completely free to you. You should never pay for results that you can get for free.

If you have to pay money to get money, it's probably a scam.ear, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. The victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually. Scam operations often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, education lenders and scholarship matching services, using official–sounding names containing words like "National," "Federal," "Foundation," or "Administration."

This section provides advice on how to identify such scholarship scams, how to distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent organizations, how to protect yourself from scholarship scams; and what to do if you are scammed.

In general, be wary of scholarships with an application fee, scholarship matching services who guarantee success, advance-fee loan scams and sales pitches disguised as financial aid "seminars". (

Common Scams (links to

Protecting Yourself (links to
How to Report Scams (link to
How to Investigate Offers (link to

If you encounter a scholarship scam, prevent others from falling victim by reporting it to the Federal Trade Commission. Visit or call 1-800-FTC-HELP.