Tuesday, April 16, 2002
At this time of the year when high school seniors receive good news from the college of their choice, their financially strapped parents are especially susceptible to falling victim to scholarship search scams.
According to County Executive Dennis Levinson, many unscrupulous individuals prey on parents and students struggling to find ways to pay for the increasing costs of a college education by promising to search for and obtain scholarships in exchange for an advance fee. Fees can range from $25 to $1,000. Most offer a "money back guarantee" but impose conditions that make it difficult or impossible to collect. Worse, they may no longer be in existence when one later tries to contact them.
"Our Division of Consumer Affairs warns everyone to be on guard about scholarship search firms that often deliberately defraud people by failing to provide the services they promise or giving them information that they could otherwise have gotten for free. Often these firms have official sounding names and use seals that make them appear to be a government agency," Levinson said. "Although there are legitimate scholarship search firms, at a minimum I would strongly advise students and parents to check with their high school or college counselors before they purchase such services."
Citizens should be particularly cautious with firms that use a P.O. Box or a suite number and have an out of state address. Since many such firms are located out of state, it becomes very difficult to do anything about it when you are dissatisfied with the services you receive and have already made payment.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) look and listen for these telltale lines:
"The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
"You can't get this information anywhere else."
"I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
"We'll do all the work."
"The scholarship will cost some money."
"You've been selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship - or
You're a "finalist" in a contest you never entered.
Atlantic County citizens who feel they may have been victimized by a fraudulent search firm or would like more information may contact the Atlantic County Division of Consumer Affairs for assistance and advice at 345-6700, ext. 2476
Media Contact: Howard J. Kyle, Chief of Staff, 343-2223.