Attorney General Pruitt Issues Scholarship Scam Warning
OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a warning Monday for students and parents searching for college scholarships.
“Tuition costs are rising every year for students, making it difficult for many Oklahoma families to afford college. Scholarships are vital for families, but parents must be smart about where they apply for scholarships and not become victims of fraud out of desperation,” Pruitt said.
Scholarship opportunities are available for students from private companies, colleges and government programs. Savings programs such as Oklahoma’s 529 College Savings Plan also are available to save money before college.
The Attorney General’s Public Protection Unit provides the following tips to avoid scholarship scams:
· There are many free scholarship information sources available through school financial aid offices, the U.S. Department of Education (www.studentaid.ed.gov) and organizations like College Parents of America at (888) 256-4627 (www.collegeparents.org). While some legitimate companies offer lists of scholarships in exchange for an advance fee, consult the free options first;
· If you choose a pay service, do your research first and compare various services before committing to anything. Do not be influenced by high-pressure sales pitches or claims that you will miss scholarship opportunities if you do not pay quickly;
· Beware of any service that uses a mail drop for its return address;
· Read all of the fine print before you sign anything or give personal information;
· Do not give your banking or personal information until you confirm that the scholarship service is credible;
· Ask friends, neighbors, other parents, guidance counselors and/or employees of your college’s financial aid office if they’ve heard of the organization or company;
· Keep receipts and records of interactions;
· Never be afraid to ask questions or request more information, and be skeptical of representatives who are reluctant to answer your questions or discuss specifics.
The Federal Trade Commission also cautions to watch for the following taglines, including:
• “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back;”
• “You can’t get this information anywhere else;”
• “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship;”
• “We'll do all the work;”
• “The scholarship will cost some money;”
· “You've been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship;” or
· “You’re a finalist” in a contest you never entered.
To report suspected fraud or scams, contact the AG’s Public Protection Unit at (405) 521-2029, (918) 581-2885 or PublicProtection@oag.ok.gov. For more information about tips and resources, go online to www.ftc.gov.