The Better Business Bureau is warning students planning for college – and their parents – to beware of scam artists advertising free grants. While there are legitimate companies and organizations that help secure grants and other aid, there are many criminals looking for a quick buck and personal information.
Criminals cold call and ask basic questions they say will determine if a student is eligible, and then ask for banking information to collect a so-called one-time processing free or to directly deposit the “grant” money into an account, according to the BBB office that serves Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia.
Some companies claim to have programs guaranteeing a financial package and say they will handle paperwork for a fee. Applying for scholarships is usually free, the BBB says.
In the United States, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only application that determines eligibility for all federal programs, the organization says.
- Never provide bank account or credit card information to anyone you don’t know.
- Make sure an agency or organization actually exists.
- Don’t rely on caller ID. New technology allows scam artists to appear as if calling from agencies in Washington, D.C.
Visit StudentAid.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s site for free information on scholarships for education beyond high school.