Knowing the following 10 warning signs can keep you from being a scholarship scam victim when going to college.
1. Fees: You shouldn't have to pay to search for or apply for scholarships. Check out the free scholarship search at FastWeb.com.
2. Credit card or bank account information needed: You should never have to give credit card or bank account information to award providers.
3. Scholarship guarantee: No one can guarantee that you'll win a scholarship because no one can control scholarship judges' decisions. Also, be wary of "high success rates," they usually do not refer to actual award winners.
4. No work involved: You can't avoid putting in time to fill out a scholarship application.
5. No contact information: Legitimate sponsors should provide contact information upon request. If the sponsor does not supply a valid email address, phone number and mailing address (not a PO box) after you've asked for one, that could be the sign of a scam.
6. Unsolicited scholarships: If you are called to receive an award for which you never applied, be on alert, it's most likely a scam.
7. Pressure tactics: Don't allow yourself to be pressured into applying for a scholarship, especially if the sponsor is asking for money up front.
8. Claims of "exclusive" scholarships: Sponsors don't make their scholarships available through only one service.
9. Sponsor goes out of its way to sound "official:" Scammers sometimes use official-sounding words like "national," "education" or "federal," or they display an official-looking seal to fool you into thinking they are legit. Check with your school if you question a scholarship provider's legitimacy.
10. Your questions aren't answered directly: If you can't get a straight answer from a sponsor regarding their application, what will be done with your information or other questions, proceed with caution.
• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email Info@ArizonaCollegePlanners.com.