If you need money for college, here’s how to avoid getting caught up in financial aid scams!
Though college tuition and fees are rising much less than they did during the Great Recession, students are still paying more for a college education than they did in past years.
That’s because the amount of college aid and tax benefits that are available to them just haven’t kept up with tuition hikes, according to a report from the College Board in October. The report found that the growth in grant aid has slowed when compared to the growth in tuition and fees. Students and families need money for college, and that means more are scrambling to find what meager aid there is available to them — and more opportunities to get caught up in student financial aid scams that promise quick access to money.
Families can pay more than $1,000 for commercial financial aid advice services, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And while these businesses aren’t illegal, they often are scams, offering services that you can get for free.
In 2015, one company, for instance, agreed to pay $5.2 million for illegally billing more than 100,000 consumers, according to a press release from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The company “lured in consumers with misleading information about the total cost of its subscription financial services and hit them with undisclosed and unauthorized automatic recurring charges.”
Later that year, the bureau took action against another company for taking advantage of students and families who were looking for information on how to pay for college. The firm, according to the bureau’s press release, tricked consumers into thinking they were applying for financial aid services and falsely represented an affiliation with the government or academic institutions.
So, if you need money for college, how can you protect yourself from one of these scams?
The Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education recommends being on the lookout for these kinds of “pitches” that you might hear during seminars, from telemarketers or online.
Possible Scam Pitches
“Buy now or miss this opportunity.” Officials say this is just a pressure tactic to get you to pay them some money. Don’t give in. Remember, many of these resources are free to you.
“We guarantee you’ll get aid.” That might sound great, but, as officials point out, is that $200 scholarship such an amazing find when you’ve paid them a $1,000 fee to get it?
“I’ve got aid for you; give me your credit card or bank account number.” That’s simply never a good idea. Before you give your credit card or bank account information to anybody, be sure you’ve done your homework to ensure the business isn’t out to steal your money or identify.
When looking for help financing college, be sure to talk with the experts — often your child’s high school guidance counselor or the financial aid office at the college they are attending or plan to attend. The Federal Aid Office also lists lots of free resources for students who need money for college where you can find information about student aid and scholarships.
Doing the research, finding the opportunities that your family may be eligible for and filling out all of the forms can take time, but it’s well worth the effort. And it definitely shouldn’t cost you any money.
The CESI Team is committed to helping you reach your financial goals. If debt keeps you from living the life you dream of, contact us for a free debt analysis today and get started on the road to a brighter future!