There is an increase in the number of fraudsters and scammers worldwide nowadays, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rate at which coronavirus is increasing is the rate at which the number of scammers is growing globally. This does not exclude the students and other people seeking scholarships to support their education. Scammers are targeting innocent students to take advantage of them during these uncertain times.
The rate at which COVID-19 pandemic affects people makes it more important to protect your personal information and your money. There are many ways, such as phishing, that scholarship scams can be performed, and the desire to get help during this pandemic period can make you vulnerable to these scams. To protect your money, your family, and yourself from scholarship scams, you must be familiar with these scams and how they can affect you.
Covid-19 scholarship scams
Avoid phishing scholarship scams
Phishing scams are becoming popular these days and especially during a period of crises like this COVID-19 pandemic. This type of scam is usually in the form of tricks to allow students to expose their personal information while applying for a fake scholarship. Some of the information could include financial data like credit card numbers or bank details and website passwords. Other information they may try to get is your Social Security number, which may put your identity into grave risk. After leaking your information to these people through their fake scholarship scheme, they can easily infiltrate into different parts of your life, including your social media accounts, email, and money.
Phishing may appear in the form of an email and may look legit with the official logos of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IRS, and other leading government agencies. Here are some of what you should know to protect yourself from phishing scams:
– When the email has an urgent tone and asking you to take action now
– When the email is asking you for the scholarship processing fee and other fees
– When the email is offering free goods or services for performing little or no task
– When you receive an email with fake invoices or receipts that you don’t even know about
– The email is asking you to provide and verify your social security number or other personal information.
Student loan relief scams
During this period, students should be careful when it comes to student loans. Many of these student loan borrowers can be vulnerable to fraud. This is possible when they release documents that many of the borrowers are now qualified to receive new or different relief forms to protect them from the COVID-19 crisis. When loan borrowers capitalize on promising debt forgiveness after a one-time payment of the loan, they are likely to be scammers. In another student loan scam, the loan borrower may charge a fee for a student’s service that is supposed to be free. When such happen, students must be careful about paying any fees to anybody for what you know is free. In developed countries and some other countries, student loans attract an automatic 0% interest for students.
How to identify a scholarship scam
Upfront payment or application fee
Applying for a scholarship does not require you to pay any application fee. If you are applying for one and you are asked to pay registration or application fee, you must take your leave. You must never send money to any organization to get a scholarship. If you do, the company will take the money, run away, and never contact you again.
All students must be careful whenever a company requests a loan fee before loaning you the money. No matter how much the loan, a real company will never ask you for a loan fee before borrowing you a loan. They know you must repay the loan; why should they request for a fee that they will not remove from your loan? Apart from loan fees, they also call it “origination fee,” “processing fee,” “default fee,” “application fee,” “guarantee fee,” or “insurance fee,” and you will be asked to pay in advance. Legal scholarship schemes deduct fees like this from the disbursement check; they will never request an upfront fee payment before applying.
Scholarships are not guaranteed! Never trust a company that advertises that they will surely get you a scholarship. Every company that says so will ask you for a processing fee, and they may even promise you a money-back guarantee. After the payment, you will never get a scholarship, and you will never get your processing fees back. Legal services will never guarantee a scholarship for you.
You can judge if a scholarship is a scam or not from their company name. Every scholarship name or company name that is using governmental words like “official,” “national,” or “governmental” or any other name sounding official may be fake. This is because they know you will fall victim once you see such official names. Be careful when you notice anything like that.
Everybody is eligible for the scholarship
This is not always true because all scholarship sponsors always have some criteria that their candidates must meet. Although not all scholarships depend on athletic prowess, academic merit, or minority student status, there will always be some restrictions on scholarship registration. So, there is no legit scholarship that pays students solely for breathing. If any scholarship says everybody is eligible, it is a pure scholarship scam.
The fake website is what many scam scholarship companies are using when they want to do their work. Always visit and register your information on secure and encrypted websites. To identify such websites, they must begin with https://, The “s” there is what differentiates real websites from fake websites. If you see a scholarship advert with a website without the “s” in its address prefix, it is most likely to be a scam scholarship website. It is best not to enter your information on such a fake website because it could lead to information hack/leak.
This article on how to tell a website is real or a scam may help you in avoiding scholarship scams.
Personal information requests
When you see a scholarship advert that is requesting for personal information, it is probably a scam. Some of the personal information you must not provide are your calling card numbers, credit card numbers, account numbers, and social security numbers. If you receive a phone call asking for personal information as a “sign of goodwill,” to “verify your identity” or to “confirm your eligibility,” hang up immediately. If you provide any personal information, they can use that in addition to your parents’ names and your date of birth to commit identity theft. They can also use your account number and bank routing number to withdraw money from your bank account while demanding a “demand draft.” In case you don’t know, a demand draft is just like checks and does not require a signature to withdraw money from your bank account.
How to protect yourself from a scholarship scam
When searching for scholarships, few rules will help you from being scammed by scholarship scammers. As you are searching for scholarships, these people are also searching for people to scam. These are some of the rules that will help you.
Ask yourself, “Could this be true?”
Many scholarship adverts look too good to be true when you see them. If you feel like this when you see the advert, it is fake! You can go online to do a little more research about the scholarship and the company. If you see anything negative, it is fake!
Never pay money
No matter what the money is said to be used for, whether it is service fees or application fees, never pay money to any scholarship company. A legal scholarship company will never ask you for money before they can process your application. A scholarship is legitimate only when the application and processing are free.
If a scholarship offer is proving to you that it is real and they are asking for money, you should try to contact them. Call them through their phone number and ask for their physical address and any other information to prove their legitimacy. Real scholarship companies will be glad to provide you with this information and will like to meet you in person. Scam organizations will not want to provide such information because they don’t have one.
Before applying for a scholarship or doubting its legitimacy, you can do some background checks on the company or organization. For example, you can search for their company name on google and read reviews about them. These reviews will show you their true color. You will see from the reviews if someone has been scammed before by them. You can use your country company directory database to search for the company online. If they are registered, you will see them there with reviews from beneficiaries.
Above all, the best advice for those looking for scholarships during this Covid-19 pandemic period is to take their time to search for information online and offline. Scholarships do not come easy, and there is no easy and quick way to get one. So, to protect yourself from being scammed, make sure you follow the above rules when searching for scholarships. Although getting scholarships during this time is good, but you must protect yourself from scholarship scams. Any scholarship emails or phone calls requesting your personal information or cash should be ignored. Scholarships do not come easy, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.