As most students and their families are aware, the college admissions process can be long and intimidating. And adding to the stress of filling out applications and financial aid forms is the chance that an unscrupulous company might be trying to manipulate or scam you during the process.
If a company is promising you scholarships or financial aid guarantees, they're likely to be unscrupulous, since it's difficult to predict what types of aid you'll be getting. However, if they're asking for a fee for these "guaranteed" aid options, then you know you have a scam on your hands. Submitting the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) is completely free of charge, and the only place where you can file it is at fafsa.ed.gov, the Intuit team notes. If you're applying for scholarships, you should be able to apply at no cost, and no company can guarantee that you'll be awarded one.
If you are notified that you are the recipient of college money, make sure you know the source that's contacting you. In some cases, you may hear from a company offering you aid that you never actually applied for, and it could cost you in the end.
"Whether by a sudden phone call or mysterious letter in the mail, be wary of anyone telling you you've been randomly selected for a scholarship or grant," the Intuit staff adds. "Often the next step is sending the scammer your bank or personal information so they can then steal your money or identity."
For those who already have student debt, it can be challenging to apply to one school while owing money to a previous college. In these cases, you may be interested in seeking debt relief, but don't fall prey to a company that says your debt can go away if you pay them a fee up-front.
"The FTC has made it illegal for debt relief programs to charge a fee up-front, so if a company is promising to lower or renegotiate your debt after you send them money, that's a red flag," Intuit notes. "Legitimate companies are only allowed to accept payment once the debt has been settled, or you agree to a new payment plan."
Remember, however, that you don't need a third party to help you negotiate your debt or restructure your student loans. Organizations such as The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can help students manage loan debt legitimately.
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