Fraud Edge

Thinking caps on! Avoid scholarship fraud

Higher-education tuition is astronomical. Prospective students and their parents are looking in every corner for financial relief. But fraudsters are searching even harder for desperate victims. Don’t let your panic disable your due diligence. Here’s how to use your fraud examiner abilities to avoid these opportunists.

Candace was about to be a freshman at her state university, and she needed some quick money for her first-semester tuition. She clicked on an ad, “Fast scholarship money now!” in one of her social-media apps, and suddenly her life became even more complicated. “What [the fraudsters] want you to do is click on that link, and the game starts,” says Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “What they’re going to tell you … is there’s all this scholarship money, financial aid money available, but there’s an application fee — hundreds of dollars.”

In a recent interview with Spectrum News, Bartholomy warns scholarship applicants that an upfront payment is a red flag and to watch out for fraudsters trying to steal their money. “If there’s a price tag up front, that money’s going the wrong way,” he says. “When you make payment, they don’t want it with a credit card. … So, they’re going to ask you to make that payment with Zelle or a Venmo or some other type of cash app” because then the money is untraceable and irretrievable. Fraudsters also now have your valuable personally identifiable information (PII) that they can use for other nefarious purposes. (See “Students tricked into scholarship scam,” by Rachel Loyd, Spectrum News 1, July 18, 2023.)

Candace’s fictitious case is representative of a real fraud plaguing frantic students and their parents. 

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