Edited from a Press Release
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urges students and parents to exercise caution when applying for student aid and scholarship opportunities. 


High school seniors and college students applying for such opportunities need to be wary of any scams looking to take advantage of those relying on financial assistance to meet financial obligations. 

“Scholarships and financial aid are a part of many college students’ experience,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “They are a great way to help ease potential financial strains but students also need to be aware that illegitimate opportunities do exist.”
 
A popular scam involves websites charging a fee while claiming or guaranteeing to find scholarships.

However, free websites and online databases do exist. Students should go directly to legitimate websites and not click on a provided link, which may take them to a different website than intended.

Students should research scholarships before applying to verify the legitimacy of the scholarship and talk to a guidance counselor or academic advisor. Also, knowing the specific terms or conditions of any scholarship or financial assistance is important before accepting. 

When searching for loans, students should be aware that legitimate loan servicing companies do not charge upfront fees. 

Scammers may also call current and former students who have taken out loans to inform them they will be enrolled in a payment reduction program with a low or 0% interest rate. However, the student is never enrolled in any program.

The monthly payment is never applied to student loan debt and the debt is higher than before making payments through the alleged debt reduction program. 

Scammers may also tell students a large or one-time payment will repair their credit score and that fee is charged on top of the alleged credit repair service.

Students should also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) annually to receive federal and West Virginia aid. For information and to apply for West Virginia scholarships, such as PROMISE, go to http://www.cfwv.com

The Attorney General’s Office issues this advice as part of the fourth annual Off to College Consumer Protection Week.  To learn about consumer protection efforts in West Virginia, visit http://www.ago.wv.gov/consumerprotection
 
Anyone with questions should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at http://www.wvago.gov.