West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reminded students and parents via a statement to be careful about sharing personal information when applying for student aid and scholarship opportunities.

Since many high school seniors and college students rely on some form of financial aid to assist with the cost of tuition and other college-related financial obligations, they are potential targets for those looking to take advantage of them, Morrisey’s statement said.

“It’s not surprising that so many students seek financial assistance in order to accrue as little student debt as possible,” Morrisey said in his statement. “Parents and students need to be mindful of who is receiving personal information and should always be on the lookout for red flags.”

According to the statement, a popular scam involves websites charging a fee while claiming or guaranteeing to find scholarships. However, free websites and online databases do exist, the statement says. Morrisey advises students to go directly to legitimate websites and be cautious of links from advertisements, which may take them to a different website than intended. 

Morrisey also advises students to research scholarships prior to applying to verify the legitimacy of the scholarship and to talk to a guidance counselor or an academic advisor. It is also important to know the specific terms or conditions of any scholarship or financial assistance before accepting.

Another great tip that Morrisey mentioned for students in his statement is that while searching for loans, that legitimate loan servicing companies do not charge upfront fees.

Morrisey’s statement offered the following information on which methods scammers may be using.

Scammers may call current and former students who have taken out loans to inform them that they will be enrolled in a payment reduction program with a low or 0% interest rate. However, the student is never enrolled in any such program and the monthly payment is never applied to student loan debt. In some cases, the debt is even higher than before making payments through the alleged debt reduction program.

Scammers may also tell students that a large or one-time payment will repair their credit score and and that fee is charged on top of the alleged credit repair service.

Morrisey’s statement also recommends that students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually to receive federal and West Virginia aid. 

The Attorney General’s Office issues this advice as part of the fifth annual ‘Off to College Consumer Protection Week’. To learn more about consumer protection efforts in West Virginia, visit the Attorney General’s website here.