AKRON — The June 30 federal FAFSA deadline is nearly here and many students will begin searching for grants or scholarships to help fund their college education.

With an average tuition of approximately $22,000 at 4-year institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, paying for a college degree is a challenging obstacle for prospective students.

A challenge made more difficult by scammers looking to take advantage of students and parents searching for financial aid opportunities.

This con hooks victims with the promise of money; however, they often require upfront “fees” and then never actually follow through with the funds. In a recent twist, these scammers claim to help with student loan forgiveness.

Students and their families should be wary of websites, seminars or other schemes that promise to find scholarships, grants or financial aid packages for a fee.

How the scams work:

Scammers typically claim to represent the government, a university or a nonprofit organization. The details vary, but the con is the same. The scammer will pose as a financial aid representative using words like “National” and “Federal” to sound more official. They claim you have won a scholarship or a grant (without ever applying) and ask for payment of a one-time “processing fee.”

In another version, the scammer pressures you into applying for a “guaranteed” scholarship or grant. However, there is a fee to apply. Time goes by once the fee is paid, and the money is never sent. When attempting to contact a representative, it is quickly discovered that the company has set so many conditions that it is almost impossible to receive a refund.

Due to the sensitive personal and financial information provided for scholarship and grant applications, it is important to be cautious when choosing one to apply for.

On average, students were awarded slightly over $5,000 from federal grants, such as FAFSA, and more than $11,000 from institutional grants.

While the amount awarded varies depending on the institution (public versus private or two-year versus four-year), applying for grants and scholarships is a great way to help ease the financial burden of attending college.

More information is available online at studentaid.gov for the different financial aid options.

To protect students and parents searching for financial aid opportunities from falling victim to scholarship scams, the Better Business Bureau recommends following these guidelines:

Beware of unsolicited offers. Typically, winning a scholarship or grant that wasn’t applied for is impossible.

Take your time. Use caution if a representative urges you to buy now to avoid losing an opportunity.

Ask questions. If the company or seminar representative is evasive, walk away. Ask your guidance counselor or a college financial aid office whether they have experience with the company.

Be skeptical of glowing success stories touted on websites or at seminars. Ask instead for the names of families in your community who have used the service in the last year. Talk to them and find out about their experience with the firm.

Be aware that a check can bounce even after the bank allows cash withdrawal from the deposit. Check processing is a confusing business, as is the terminology. Even if a bank representative says that a check has “cleared,” it is not certain that it won’t be detected as a fake weeks later. One thing the account holder can be sure of is that they will be responsible for any funds drawn against the amount.


The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands, and charities they can trust for more than 110 years. In 2022, people turned to BBB more than 250 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on about 12,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org.

The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. BBB serving Akron was founded in 1920 and serves Ashland, Medina, Portage, Richland, Summit and Wayne Counties

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