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As with most things, and certainly all things involving money, scholarships and other financial aid opportunities are sometimes scams designed to part you from your money. It's an unfortunate, but time proven fact that there is a small percentage of the human population making life worst for the rest of us. They cheat the elderly out of their life savings, they sell broken down cars to newly expecting parents, and they put lead in toys sold to babies just to make a few dollars more. They also prey upon students and their parents who are desperate to find just a few extra dollars in order to go to school to get a better life.

Knowing that there are unscrupulous people and companies in the world fraudulently representing scholarship and Aid opportunities will hopefully make you more careful as you sort through applications. In this case, the mind numbing task of filling out applications is actually working in your favor. With the exception of the essay portion almost every application requests the same information- grades, address, interests, field of study, extracurricular activities, etc. When you come across an application that requests your credit card or banking information it should raise a giant red flag. If it looks a little peculiar, it probably is. Set that application aside and take a few minutes to investigate it. Ask the school guidance counselor about it or better yet, contact the Federal Trade Commission whose job it is to investigate these issues.

Students and parents should also be weary of opportunities that cost money to apply for. Often a student will be invited to an 'exclusive' seminar where they will be given a high-pressure sales pitch to pay for an opportunity or risk losing it. Or they will be asked to pay a membership fee to an organization that awards scholarships. Sure, that $25 membership fee is pittance compared to the $2,000 annual scholarship. But, that's because the scholarship isn't real. ALWAYS investigate any organization promising you financial aid if there is a fee involved.

The FTC is always on the lookout for scams such as these. With their help and the help of vigilant students and parents across the country fewer and fewer students are getting scammed. If you encounter a scholarship or Aid opportunity that looks too good to be true; or just want ore information on what to look out for please visit the Federal Trade Commission's site http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/ouchalrt.shtm.

By: Dan Russell

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