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How to Avoid and Protect Yourself from
Scholarship Scams


This advice can help you avoid becoming the victim of a scholarship scam.

Get an independent opinion from a trusted source, such as a financial aid administrator at a local college or university, the local reference librarian or your high school guidance counselor.

Call Directory Assistance to see if the company has a listing. If they don't, they're unlikely to be legit. You can reach Directory Assistance by dialing 1 followed by the area code and 555-1212. (Use 1-800-555-1212 to see if they have a toll free number.) You can also look for a listing online using, Switchboard, WhoWhere, and

Never give out personal information to strangers. Don't divulge your checking or savings account numbers, social security number or other personal information, no matter how reasonable-sounding the request.

Get it in writing before responding. Get offers, cancellation and refund policies and guarantees in writing before sending money. Then read all the fine print. Don't rely on verbal promises.

Don't respond to unsolicited offers.

Ask the organization how it got your name. If they got your name from a reputable source, verify it with the source. The College Board, for example, only releases its mailing lists to colleges, universities and carefully vetted nonprofit tax-exempt foundations. Scams often use carefully written scripts designed to elicit your SAT score or GPA and then feed it back to you later in the conversation to reassure you as to their legitimacy.

Ignore offers that involve time pressure. If the company demands an immediate response, respond by hanging up the phone.

Trust your instincts. If you feel uneasy about an offer, don't spend any money until you've addressed your concerns. Your initial suspicious reaction to an offer is often correct.

Keep good records. Keep photocopies of your correspondence with the company and the company's promotional materials and take notes during any telephone conversations. If it does turn out to be a scam, include these materials with your complaint to law enforcement agencies.


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