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Articles / Applying to College / FAFSA.com (NOT ed.gov) ... Did I Get Scammed?

March 22, 2012

FAFSA.com (NOT ed.gov) ... Did I Get Scammed?

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)

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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