Consumer Alert: BBB Hawaii warns against college scholarship scams

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — University students will be back on campus soon, and many are figuring out tuition plans.

There are tons of grants and scholarships to help them, but con artists often pose as officials to scam these college hopefuls.

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“This is a time when we really see fraud come out for those applying for financial aid,” said Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau Hawaii marketplace manager. “Especially with the confusion of COVID, you might receive an email or a text message saying, ‘You’ve won a grant or a scholarship,’ and you didn’t even apply.”

The BBB said scammers will trick students with scholarship offers that have words like “national” and “federal” to sound more official. The scammers will say the student won a scholarship or grant even though they never applied; they just need to pay a processing fee to earn the money.

“Most scholarships don’t require some sort of additional fee,” Freitas said. “So when people are starting to ask for any sort of payment, you really need to be careful and make sure this is a legitimate grant or scholarship.”

The BBB said prospective students should look into unfamiliar scholarship offers before filling out the application. Ask the organization how they got personal information if an opportunity presents itself through phone or email. Walk away if a representative is being evasive and then check with a school guidance counselor or the financial aid office.

“First, if anybody is feeling that this may be suspect, they have that gut feeling, first they need to listen to it and not give out anything. There’s no rush here,” Freitas said. “Really look to your college financial aid office for that resource, or somebody that is trustworthy when getting any sort of financial aid.”

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Scams like these should not discourage potential students from looking for financial help. Many who think they will not qualify find out they are eligible through the Federal Student Aid website, linked here. For more tips on how college students can avoid getting scammed, click here.

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