Avoiding College Scholarship Scams Protect yourself and your money By Deborah Hardy CONGRATULATIONS! You have won a $10,000 scholarship for college. To obtain your award, please forward a $100 processing fee to Usually, most parents and college-bound students would not go beyond those first words. Eventually, students and parents come to realize that it was only a scholarship scam. Instead of winning, they have lost. How can you determine which college scholarships and grants are legitimate? To avoid being the victim of a scholarship scam, set up guidelines to identify which college scholarships might be of concern. Here are some common warning signs to look for when identifying scholarship scams: Processing Fees Scholarships that require a processing fee should raise a red flag. Some college scholarships add a disclosure statement that guarantees the winnings and states that students will be eligible for a refund. These are additional scam slogans to ensure that college-bound students will be comfortable as consumers. In reality, the money never returns. Rewards without Entries For most students, writing another essay after going through the college application process is tedious. When an award is given without the student having to submit a college scholarship application, it is quite surprising. Beware the awards without entries. Guaranteed College Scholarships In the world of financial assistance, there is never any guarantee. Guaranteed college scholarships never materialize. Free Seminar This on-the-spot scam lures parents and students by sending letters that ask them to attend a seminar in which the organization will present attractive materials that guarantee students will qualify for college scholarship money. A fee is charged or may be deducted from your bank account. Your students receive a package with a few scholarships listed. Often, other sources, such as the school counselor or a credible database, will have information on the college scholarships and grants presented. Now that you know how to spot scholarship scams, how can you protect your students from these scams? For starters, never pay a fee. A scholarship is a gift from a given group. Why should anyone have to pay to process a college scholarship application or to receive an award? Also, if it sounds great, beware. Get more information about the organization. Call the Better Business Bureau or visit the Web site at www.bbb.org. When dealing with scholarship organizations, be savvy and determine whether a group's name seems to masquerade as a federal organization or a charitable program. Many scholarship databases provide accurate and reliable sources. Ask your students' school counselor before your students apply. Getting the right information can help you avoid scholarship scams and earn you the biggest reward of all. Deborah Hardy is director of guidance at Irvington High School in New York.