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  • Last modified 20 days ago (July 26, 2018)

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Lying, cheating, stealing is their game

Staff writer

They make their living lying, cheating, and stealing. They are college financial aid scammers.

Anyone headed to college scrambles to find affordable ways to do so.

The tricksters lay in wait to prey on those desperate for reduced college expenses.

“We have had a number of scams here,” said Susan Dick, financial aid administrative assistant at Butler Community College.

A number of cases have scammers stealing an incoming student’s identify. One student said he had been told he didn’t quality for funds because the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program said he already had received it.

“In this case, someone used his name and Social Security number to receive around $6,000 in loans, maxed out federal grants, and dropped the classes immediately after receiving the monies,” Dick said.

Not getting the money was bad enough. Since the scammer dropped classes early, the actual student was suspended, Dick said.

Getting it sorted out and reinstated is a lengthy process, she said.

If a student gets a rejection from FAFSA, she advises students to go to a financial aid office immediately.

“One young man came to enroll. After looking him up, we found out he was ‘dead’,” Dick said.

After verification through the sheriff’s office, someone had stolen the man’s Social Security number, received money and reported his “death” to the Department of Education.

“He obviously was not dead, but that’s how it showed in our system,” Dick said. The situation was ironed out, and he was able to attend classes.

What red flags should students and parents watch for?

If any upfront fees are required, be wary. Any company requesting upfront fees to find aid is suspicious — especially when it comes to scholarships. Legitimate scholarships are rewarded according to a student’s merits or other criteria, not a fee.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Giving a “money-back” guarantee is almost always a scam. A statement saying, “You can’t get this information anywhere else,” probably is a lie.

Legitimate grant and scholarship information may be obtained through a high school counselor or college financial aid office.

Dump the email that says, “Congratulations, you’ve received a scholarship.”

Simply put, you can’t win a scholarship out of the blue that you didn’t apply for. They are not given out randomly.

Don’t be fooled by a company or logo that sounds official. Words like “National,” “Federal,” or “Department of Education” are sneaky ways to hook their victim.

The warnings are not just for incoming students, the Better Business Bureau said.

Aggressive scammers use robocalls to harass graduated students, often falsely claiming they can renegotiate school debt and somehow eliminate it.

BBB’s final advice to thwart scammers is “never give your credit card or bank information to anyone who contacts you unsolicited by mail, email, text or phone.”

Last modified July 26, 2018

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