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Watch Out Wednesday: Student financial aid scams

Posted at 7:31 AM, Apr 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 11:25:54-04

TULSA, Okla. — With college entrance tests behind them and with graduation soon to come, some students and their families think ahead to scholarships and financial aid to help pay for college.

While it’s getting late for this year’s seniors, some juniors are just starting to search for college money.

“We wanted to make sure our son has the resources he needs to start college after he graduates from high school next year,” says Annette, from Tulsa. “We heard from a company that said for $400, it could guarantee several thousand dollars in financial aid. We quickly found out we had been scammed.”

Annette says the company, just happened to call them one day.

And after giving the scammers their debit card info, Annette soon discovered they had cleaned out her account, which had $1200 hundred dollars in it.

Experts say those types of scams increase, as the costs of college, increase.

“The catch is they want you to pay a deposit upfront, that’s the main thing we do see.”

The Better Business Bureau's Bryce Marshall says some scammers aren’t as brazen as those who targeted Annette, raiding an entire account.

Some just ask for that deposit.

They tell parents and students they can provide you “hard to find” scholarships and grants, and get you approved for loans many families supposedly don’t know about.

“In reality, you’re only paying them some cash, giving them some information, and just don’t hear from them again.”

And as in Annette’s case, use that information to steal more of your money, maybe even your identity.

And when searching online for legitimate financial aid, the BBB says to be careful, since websites can be faked, and legit websites can be hijacked.

The BBB recommends actually talking to representatives, not just emailing.

“If you really talk do talk to them over the phone, or at a local place and you can talk to them in person, it can give you that peace of mind that you’re not being scammed.”

As for Annette, while her bank wasn’t required by law to refund money lost through a debit card, it did anyway.

“I hope other families don’t fall into the same trap we did,” Annette says.

And she wants to get the word out.

A couple of the biggest red flags to beware of:

  • Is anyone contacting you out of the blue?
  • Does anyone want money upfront?

When starting to make plans for college, experts say it’s best to talk to your preferred school’s financial aid counselors. They can help you find the best scholarship, grants, and aid packages, your student may qualify for.

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