Many scholarship scams tend to have a particular set of characteristics. These characteristics can be warning signs of possible scams. Watch for these warning signs:

  • Application fees. Beware of ANY "scholarship" that requests an application fee.

  • Other fees. If you must pay money to get information about an award, it might be a scam.

  • Guaranteed winnings. No legitimate scholarship sponsor will guarantee that you will win the award. Also be wary of guarantees that you'll receive a minimum amount of financial aid -- usually such guarantees are counting the federal student aid programs and private student loan programs, for which most people are eligible.

  • Everybody is eligible. Scholarship sponsors do not hand out awards to students simply for breathing.

  • Unsolicited opportunities. Most scholarship sponsors will only contact you in response to your inquiry. If you've never heard of the organization before, it is probably a scam.

  • Typing and spelling error. If the application materials contain typing and spelling errors, or lack an overall professional appearance, it may be a scam.

  • No telephone number. Most legitimate scholarship programs include a telephone number.

  • Mail drop for a return address. It is illegal to misrepresent a mail box for an office.

  • Time pressure. If you must respond quickly, and won't hear about the results for several months, it might be a scam.

  • Unusual requests for personal information. If the application asks you to disclose bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or social security numbers, it is probably a scam.

  • High success rates. Overstated claims of effectiveness are a good tip-off to a scam. Less than one percent (1%) of users of scholarship search services actually win an award.

  • Excessive hype. Scams try to get you so excited that you'll ignore your natural sense of caution. If the brochure or advertisement uses a lot of hyperbole (e.g., "free money," "win your fair share," and "everybody is eligible") or mentions the $6.6 billion in unused scholarships, be very careful.

  • A Florida or California address. A disproportionate number of scams seem to originate from Florida or California addresses. (This does not mean that all offers from Florida or California are scams.)

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an attack to identify and eliminate scholarship scams and provides information about identifying scams. If you believe you have responded to a scam, file a complaint with the FTC and your state Attorney General.

We encourage you to use one of the FREE scholarship search sites. You can locate most, if not all, of the scholarship information that a fee-based research company can, but without paying unnecessary costs.  We recommend: