March 22, 2012
Question: I've filled out my FAFSA on FAFSA.com and my friend told me that she never had to pay a fee. And now I'm afraid I have been scammed. But I've done some research and some sites say it is a scam and some say it's not a scam. FAFSA.com says they are not affiliated with the Dept. Of Education and they ask for an $80 fee. But down below in small print on FAFSA.com they say you fill out your FAFSA for free with professional assistants at fafsa.ed.gov. So they seem reliable, but I'm still scared they are going to take my identity. I want to cancel my transaction and everything on that site. But they are closed. I need help!
FAFSA.com is not a scam but it is also not FAFSA.gov, which is the site that many unsuspecting families think they are reaching when they land on its home page. (If you simply Google "FAFSA," you'll find that FAFSA.com is the first site that comes up at the top of the page, although it is there as a sponsored link.)
FAFSA.com charges money for help with FAFSA completion, which the actual FAFSA site, FAFSA.gov, does not. Many people have complained about the confusion, but it still persists.
But you don't have to worry about identity theft. FAFSA.com is not known for being unscrupulous in that way. This commercial site can lead you to believe that you should pay money for FAFSA assistance that you may not need, but you don't have to fear that it will cause you any problems besides a lighter wallet. FAFSA.com claims that the vast majority of their clients would happily recommend their services. Most families, however, find that the free help that is available from FAFSA.gov is adequate. (You can also call the financial aid office at any college on your list if you have questions about how to respond on your FAFSA, especially if your family situation is atypical.)
If you want to cancel your FAFSA.com order but are having trouble connecting with a "real" person, try this: Call the number for NEW clients (866.549.6195) not for EXISTING clients. That will take you to a real person after just a brief recording. Then you can explain that you erroneously signed up for the paid service and would like to cancel. Be persistent but polite and you should be successful.
(posted 3/22/2012; revised 3/4/2013)
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