While scholarships can be a dream come true, it's crucial to be aware of scholarship scams that can potentially derail your academic aspirations and harm your financial health.
With over 1.7 million scholarships awarded annually, it’s no surprise that budding students are on the hunt for the perfect one. But there’s a big word of warning here.
In this article, we’ll explore the most common scholarship scams of 2023 and offer tips on how to steer clear of them.
1. The Upfront Payment Trap
You receive an email or a message claiming you've won a scholarship, but to access the funds, you need to pay an upfront fee.
Avoid It: Legitimate scholarships do not require you to pay money upfront, so be cautious if you're asked to send money or provide credit card information. Scammers often use this tactic to collect fees and disappear without awarding any scholarships.
Always verify the scholarship's authenticity by checking with the sponsoring organization directly, and don't hesitate to contact the financial aid office of your educational institution for assistance.
2. Phishing Emails
An official-looking email asking for personal information, like your Social Security number or bank details, to process your scholarship application.
Avoid It: Look out for the red flags and never divulge personal info over email. According to research, a new phishing site is created on the internet every 11 seconds, so stay vigilant.
Legitimate scholarship providers won't ask for sensitive data via email, so be cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown senders.
To verify the legitimacy of an email, contact the scholarship provider through their official website or phone number, but do not reply directly to the suspicious email.
3. Too Good to Be True
You stumble upon a scholarship offering a massive sum of money with minimal requirements or qualifications.
Avoid It: While scholarships can be generous, offers that seem too good to be true should raise red flags. Scammers often use these enticing offers to lure unsuspecting students.
Before applying, research the scholarship thoroughly. Check if the organization exists, read reviews or testimonials, and ensure the application process aligns with typical scholarship procedures.
Be especially cautious if you're asked to pay a fee to access the scholarship application.
4. Unregistered Organizations
You find a scholarship from an unfamiliar organization with no verifiable track record.
Avoid It: Reputable scholarships are usually offered by established educational institutions, government agencies, or well-known foundations. Scammers create fake organizations with official-sounding names to deceive applicants.
Before applying, research the organization's history and verify its legitimacy through trusted sources. If you can't find any credible information about the scholarship provider, it's safer to avoid it.
5. Fake Websites
You come across a website that looks legitimate but is designed to collect your personal information.
Avoid It: Scammers are cashing in by creating fake scholarship websites that mimic the appearance of real ones, and Millennials and Gen-Z internet users are most likely to fall victim to this kind of attack.
You can protect yourself by checking for the 'https' in the URL, which indicates a secure and genuine connection. Additionally, check if the website is associated with a recognized educational institution or organization.
And always trust your gut. If a website's authenticity seems questionable, don't provide any personal information and report it to the relevant authorities.
Protecting Yourself with Cybersecurity Tools
It's vital to protect your personal and financial information online to avoid scholarship scams. Some of the best cybersecurity tips:
- Antivirus Software is designed to protect your computer from malware and phishing attacks and provides regular updates to detect the latest threats.
- Password Managers can help you to create and store strong, unique passwords for your online accounts.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA) should be enabled whenever possible for added security so that even if someone obtains your password, they won't be able to access your account without the second verification step.
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your internet connection, making it harder for hackers to intercept your data. Consider using a tool like Surfshark VPN for added security.
- Email Filters will automatically detect and divert phishing emails to your spam folder, preventing you from falling victim to phishing attempts disguised as scholarship opportunities.
Further education is such a blessing for young people, but scholarship scams can heavily jeopardize your finances and personal information. So it's crucial to remain vigilant and skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.
Protect yourself and focus on pursuing legitimate opportunities to fund your education by familiarizing yourself with the available tools, staying informed about common scams, and using cybersecurity tools like VPNs.
Remember, a little caution goes a long way in securing your future. Good luck with your scholarship search!