by Lisa-Anne Ray-Byers

Q. My son is in 12th grade and is planning for college.  He has been searching for scholarships and was advised by a friend to be careful of scam scholarships. How do you know if a scholarship is real?

A. Yes, there are scholarship scams and you can always follow the rule that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  You should be suspicious of any program that requires the following:

•Request payment of a fee to apply for the scholarship

•Insist on your credit card number, bank account number, calling card number, or social security number.

•Pressure you to act fast or by a specific date in a few days.

•Request an advance fee to apply for a low interest education loan.

•Offer to apply on your behalf or claim to have influence with the scholarship committee.

•Guarantee scholarship winnings or search results.

•Have loose eligibility requirements.

•Charge you for a scholarship.

•Use a mail drop as a return address.

•Do not include a telephone number for inquiries or has only a recorded message.

•Send you notification of a scholarship in the mail that you never applied for.

•Attempt to lure you in with financial aid information to get you to buy something else like life insurance.

Be cautious and remember that a toll free number and official looking envelop do not prove legitimacy.  Before you send money to an organization you should verify legitimacy:

•Contact your high school counselor or financial aid officer.

•Check with the Better Business Bureau (, the State Attorney General’s Office, and the State Chamber of Commerce in your state and the state of the organization.

•Visit scholarship to check the list defendants of pending scams.

•Contact the National Fraud Information Center ( at 1-800-876-7060.

•Call the US Postal Crime hotline at 1800-654-8896.

•Send e-mail to

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