CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminds students and parents to be careful about sharing personal information when applying for student aid and scholarship opportunities.
High school seniors and college students often rely on some form of financial aid to assist with the ever-increasing cost of tuition and other college-related financial obligations, making them a potential target for con-artists.
“Many students seek scholarships to cover tuition and offset any student debt,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “When applying for scholarships, parents and students need to be mindful of who they are sending personal information to and be on the lookout for red flags.”
A popular scam involves websites charging a fee while claiming or guaranteeing to find scholarships.
However, free websites and online databases do exist. Students should go directly to legitimate websites and be cautious of links from advertisements, which may take them to a different website than intended.
Students should also research scholarships before applying to verify the legitimacy of the scholarship and talk to a guidance counselor or academic advisor. Also, it is important to know the specific terms or conditions of any scholarship or financial assistance before accepting.
Scammers may also call current and former students who have taken out loans to inform the students they will be enrolled in a payment reduction program with a low or zero percent interest rate. However, the student is never enrolled in any program and the monthly payment is never applied to student loan debt. In some cases, the debt even is higher than before making payments through the alleged debt reduction program.
Students should also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually to receive federal and West Virginia aid.
The Attorney General’s Office issued this advice as part of the sixth annual Off to College Consumer Protection Week. Those interested in learning more about consumer protection efforts in West Virginia and how to stay safe against scammers should click here.