Avoiding Scams in College

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September 15th, 2010

College students are smart, but every year, millions of dollars from college students and their families are lost to scammers. Whether it's with a fake degree, scholarship fees, or travel scams, it's easy to get taken. Follow these tips and watch out to avoid becoming a victim while you're in school and beyond.

Don't give your credit card information freely, especially if you're not actually buying anything. Some scholarship scams will ask you for your credit card to "hold" a scholarship for you. Don't buy it-all they're holding is the keys to identity theft.

Watch out for fake scholarships. There are so many good scholarships out there, but some are scams created to make a profit. By requiring applicants to pay a fee, scholarships can generate lots of cash from thousands of applicants, even with a small fee. Before putting your hopes and hard earned money into a scholarship application, do your research to make sure that it's an actual award from a nonprofit.

Find a legitimate degree. It's unfortunate, but there are plenty of degree scams out there. When you choose your degree program, you should be careful to find one that offers a real diploma for your hard work. The best way to do so is to ensure that the school is regionally or nationally accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Additionally, carefully consider the work that's expected to be completed for your degree-programs based on life experience, or set fees for a degree rather than paying per course are warning signs that you're dealing with a degree scam.

Save your time and money by avoiding seminars. You will probably be pitched to come visit a financial aid seminar that can help you find scholarships. Although some are legitimate, they often aren't, and the meeting is designed to sell you information that you probably could have found on your own with a small amount of research.

Beware of fake loans. Letters from the Department of Education soliciting a loan are fake-they do not advertise to consumers to borrow money. Other offers that require you to pay an upfront fee are likely to be fake as well.

College is expensive, and it's tempting to do everything you can to get a good scholarship, loan, or a cheaper degree, but it's important that you use caution when dealing with financial and other information. Follow these tips to avoid scams and stay safe in college.

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