Watch out for scholarship scams looking to snag your savings

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College acceptance letters have been going out to applicants all across Southwest Florida recently, and as the buzz on social media continues to grow with excitement, students and families are now facing the reality of how to pay for tuition, housing and the cost of living that come along with the dreams of higher education.

We all know about scholarships and financial aid, but do you know how to tell the difference between a fraudulent offer for aid and a legitimate one? If not, here are some facts you should know to protect yourself from con-artists looking to school you.

1. You should NEVER pay for a scholarship search or processing fee. Some services may charge money to help you conduct your search, but these services only have access to information that is already freely available to you. There is NO exclusive access to secret databases.

2. If you are “guaranteed” a scholarship or your money back, you’re most likely dealing with a shady company. The only people guaranteeing a scholarship are members of a scholarship committee when they are notifying you that you have won.

3. If you receive an “unsolicited” email telling you that you’ve been selected to receive a scholarship for which you have not applied – delete, delete, delete.

3. Stay clear of anyone offering you promises of a low-interest student loan that involves a “fee.” Legitimate student loans are offered through the federal government, bank lenders and other private institutions and none of them require you pay anything other than the interest charges you will accumulate over the life of the loan.

4. Avoid random engine searches for scholarships and aid. Instead, check out these websites for more information on preparing and funding your college education:,, or talk to the financial aid office at your college of choice.

For more information about this Fraud Alert or to report a scam, contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-258-3292.

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