Avoiding financial scams when applying for college

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:57 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Applying for college can be a stressful time for high school students, and many are starting their applications this fall. When they’re filling out forms, they might run into scams for financial aid, scholarships and their FAFSA applications.

University of Mary students like Bailey Schock get sent scams directly to their student email.

She says she tried to stick to local scholarship applications because they felt safer.

“I did get some outside, like nationwide ones, that I was a little more skeptical about, just because I wasn’t sure if they were a scam or not. So I looked for a lot of the local ones that they sent out that I knew were more legitimate,” said Bailey Schock, a speech language pathology student.

UMary talks to families at freshman orientation on how to correctly go through application processes.

Scams can pop up via social media, over email, in the mail and on the phone.

“It’s usually from a source they don’t recognize, or it’s because they won a contest they never entered, or it’s a fee that they can pay and someone will find them lots and lots of money which, honestly, anytime you have to pay for something, it’s usually not legit,” said Karrie Huber, director of Student Financial Services at the University of Mary.

To detect scams, people can cross-check email addresses that are often similar to legitimate emails with letter switches and request urgency.

There were a few things Schock looked for to stay safe.

“I dug more into their website or some of the things that they had listed on, like what they wanted, if they said that they didn’t have a lot of questions to them or they were just, like, free, really easy ones, then I was kind of a little more skeptical because I was like, this seems a little bit too easy to be almost true,” said Schock.

She says to get a second opinion from a guidance counselor or someone at the university’s financial aid office.

“And it’s okay to question, I’d say, if you’re doing something and it doesn’t feel right, then that’s the time to send an email, or pick up the phone or ask a trusted source, especially if the person is asking for a lot of personal information, or they want them to share something that they’ve been told that they shouldn’t, like passwords, or usernames or something,” said Huber.

The University of Mary has not run into people impersonating them in financial scams, but some students have been scammed by external sources. Some students have been scammed by someone assisting them with their FAFSA applications, which are free.