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Scholarship Scam Red Flags

The best rule of thumb to follow? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Elizabeth Hoyt

August 22, 2019

Scholarship Scam Red Flags
Scholarships are a wonderful option for students that would like help paying for school. As with anything good, there are people out there who will take advantage of students’ trust and hopes for the future. As a leading scholarship database, Fastweb screens all of the scholarships available on the site and does not charge anything for its services.

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There are, however, other scholarship scam artists out there that students need to be aware of! Many of these scholarships are not regulated, which allows scam operators to get away with contacting you with illegitimate offers. Keep your wits about you and never give out personal information unless you are absolutely certain and have verified that it’s legitimate.

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Applying for scholarships isn't difficult, but it does take work. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Here are some red flags you should be aware of when seeking scholarships:


Nobody representing a legitimate scholarship can or will be able to guarantee that you’ll win. Some services even boast they can guarantee the actions of another organization – they can’t. There are false promises and will likely result in something other than you obtaining money for school.

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Unsolicited Scholarship Offers

If someone contacts you, via phone, mail or email, offering you a scholarship, and you never requested information from that provider, be very careful. Scholarships are awarded to you after an application process – they are not just given out to random students – no matter how special they are.


Applying for legitimate scholarships does not cost money -- EVER! Submitting such applications will cost you time and effort, but should never cost money, no matter how small the amount. If any scholarship offers request your funds to submit an application, become eligible, etc., kick them to the curb.

Limited Time Offers

Scholarships do have deadlines; however, they are usually clearly stated within the application guidelines. Legitimate providers don’t pressure students into applying for their scholarships; they have enough interest on their own. They also ensure that students have ample time to work on their scholarship applications and essays. If you ever feel pressured and are observing that it’s a “now or never” scenario, the scholarship is likely a scam.

Gathering Very Personal Information

Other than some basic information, a scholarship provider should not ask all applicants for private information, like your social security number. Some require information from winners, however, if you're just at the point of starting out in the application and they ask for such information - don't provide it because it will likely be used for something other than you intended.


Legitimate scholarships always have some sort of eligibility requirement, whether it's age, grades or school year. Any scholarship that claims to be all-encompassing with absolutely no exceptions should raise a red flag. It's helpful to view their previous winners to determine whether or not they are a legitimate resource. If the "testimonials" seem unnatural and contrived, they probably are.

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Scholarship providers will give you contact information to reach them, should you have any questions. Many scam artists out there will make a fake web site claiming to be a scholarship provider without any sort of way to contact them or getting in touch with them is difficult. Keep an eye out for this, because legitimate scholarship providers don't have anything to hide whereas the scammers do.

Is It Too Good to Be True?

The best rule of thumb to follow? If it seems too good to be true, it likely is! Remember, there are millions of scholarships available to students so if one doesn't seem right, move on! There are several additional reputable online resources that list scholarship scam guidelines and information. Utilize them to familiarize yourself with the warning signs so that you don’t fall prey to student scams. • Federal Trade Commission Scam Guidelines
Federal Student Aid: Avoiding Scams
FinAid’s Scholarship Scam Signs

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