TULSA, Okla. – With college entrance tests behind them and graduation coming up, some students and their families are thinking ahead to scholarships and financial aid to help pay for college.
While it is getting late for this year’s seniors, some juniors are just starting to look for money for their studies.
“We wanted to make sure our son has the resources he needs to start college after he graduates from high school next year,” says Annette, from Tulsa. “We heard from a company that for $400 they could secure several thousand dollars in financial assistance. We quickly discovered that we had been scammed.
Annette says the company called them one day.
And after giving the scammers their debit card information, Annette quickly discovered that they had emptied her account, which contained $1,200.
Experts say these types of scams are on the rise as college costs rise.
“The catch is they want you to pay a deposit up front, that’s the main thing we see.”
Bryce Marshall of the Better Business Bureau says some scammers aren’t as brazen as those who targeted Annette, looting an entire account.
Some just ask for this deposit.
They tell parents and students that they can give you “hard to find” scholarships and grants and get you approved for loans that many families supposedly don’t know about.
“In reality, you only pay them money, you give them information and you don’t hear from them again.”
And like in Annette’s case, use that information to steal more of your money, maybe even your identity.
And when looking online for legitimate financial aid, the BBB recommends caution, as websites can be spoofed and legitimate websites can be hacked.
The BBB recommends talking to reps, not just emailing.
“If you really talk to them on the phone or in a local place and can talk to them in person, it can give you peace of mind that you’re not being scammed.”
As for Annette, even though her bank was not required by law to reimburse money lost through a debit card, she did so anyway.
“I hope that other families will not fall into the same trap as us,” says Annette.
And she wants to spread the word.
Some of the biggest red flags to be wary of:
- Does anyone contact you out of the blue?
- Does anyone want money up front?
When you start making plans for college, experts say it’s best to talk to financial aid counselors at your favorite school. They can help you find the best scholarships, grants, and aid your student might be eligible for.
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