Education

Education In Depth

Sections on this page
  1. What Are Education Scams?
  2. Most Common Education Scams
  3. Education Scam Red Flags
  4. How to Beat Education Scams
  5. Fallen Victim to an Education Scam?

The modern world places a lot of importance on the concept of higher education. And while a push has been made lately to direct more people toward alternative options like a trade school, many career paths still require at least a college degree to get started.

Unfortunately, when something becomes a necessity, it also typically becomes a target for scammers, and all manner of college scams have been on the rise in the last few years.

What Are Education Scams?

Education scams can come in many forms, ranging from college to student loan scams.

Some people argue that the entire concept of higher education is a scam, saying that the crushing debt incurred from earning a degree isn't worth the starter-salary positions it often leads to. On the other side of the debate, some point to a recent set of statistics showing that college graduates earn, on average, $30,000 more annually than workers with high school diplomas only.

Regardless, there are several compelling issues around access to higher education in America. In response, an entire world of scholarship opportunities, grants, loans, and placement programs have blossomed.

And while the best of these programs have noble intentions at heart, the industry at large is ad hoc and unregulated, leaving plenty of room for enterprising scammers to take advantage of the complicated and interlocking problems at play.

Are Honor Societies Scams?

Many people think various honor societies, such as the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), are scams that don't benefit their members in the slightest. However, these organizations are technically not scams as they offer scholarships and other opportunities to members.

Good rules of thumb to follow are only to join a society associated with your chosen college and be wary of those that charge membership fees.

Most Common Education Scams

Unfortunately, nearly every aspect of higher education has been targeted by scammers, from the college prep process to the application for grants and student loans, to the schools and diplomas themselves.

Student Loan Scams

Most people need student loans to afford college. As such, student loan scams have become one of the most widespread types of college scams.

The deceptions are especially insidious since student loans are at once so helpful for so many people and involve such personal details—the exact type of sensitive information scammers love to get their hands on. In fact, most student loan scams are after just that: Bank account and financial information as well as several personal details that can help a scammer pull off identity theft.

Student loan scams can happen before or after signing up for these payment plans. They can look like a company offering to help you secure a student loan or a financial intuition offering to help consolidate your student loan debt. These scams usually come from an organization that may otherwise seem legitimate or from a cold call or unsolicited message offering financial aid.

Scholarship Program Scams

Similar to the student loan scam is the scholarship scam. Once again, these deceptions play off the fact that many people need and seek out help paying for school.

Scholarship scams primarily come in two forms. In one, like with student loan scams, the organization will ask for a ream of personal information, supposedly as part of the scholarship application process but in reality, used to steal your identity.

The other popular scholarship program scam involves an organization that says it will help you find scholarships. Along with potentially asking for sensitive financial information to "set up your account" or offering to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application—which is not only a scam but could get you in legal trouble—these programs may also charge fees for their "services."

Don't Ever Pay for a Scholarship

Genuine scholarship offers won't require you to pay any type of fee. If someone promises you a scholarship with upfront fees, it's a scam.

Diploma Mill Scams

These types of scams come from organizations posing as anything from an online college or university to a technical school to a high school diploma program.

What they all have in common is that none of these ventures are real. None of these "schools" are credentialed, and while you may end up with a "diploma," it will be essentially worthless. But you'll still have to pay for it—both through money that will go straight to scammers and a wealth of personal information they can use for other deceptions.

College Test Prep Scams

A basic hit-and-run scam with an educational twist, college test prep scams happen when a "company" calls or sends you a message offering help studying for the PSATs, SATs, or other college entrance exams.

They may ask for personal information and ask you to pay upfront. Then, instead of providing the help promised, the scammers take your money and vanish.

Education Scam Red Flags

The role of higher education may be up for debate in society, but there's no doubt that further knowledge will help you avoid education scams.

While scammers are constantly adapting their schemes to attract new victims, there are still some red flags you can look out for when it comes to college scams.

Red Flags of Scholarship/Student Loan Scams

  • Any unsolicited messages. This is the number one way scammers reach out to people, whether they're posing as a financial aid service, scholarship program, or actual school.
  • Being notified about winning a scholarship you didn't apply for.
  • Being charged for a scholarship, grant, or program that promises to find you one.
  • Any type of "guarantee" that a program will find you a grant or scholarship.
  • Companies touting "pandemic grants" or "Biden loan forgiveness plans."
  • A company that offers to fill out your FAFSA application. This is not only a scam but could get you in legal trouble.

Red Flags of Student Loan and Debt Consolidation Scams

  • Any upfront fees to consolidate the loans.
  • Aggressive or pressure tactics used to close the deal.
  • Any claim of working for or with the federal government. It doesn't approve or recommend any debt relief companies.
  • Promises of quick or full loan forgiveness.
  • Asking for your Federal Student Aid (FSA) login credentials.

Online College Program Scams

  • Aggressive advertising or recruiting tactics.
  • Promises of little coursework or unrealistically short timelines to earn your degree.
  • Little-to-no interaction with the institution.
  • Charging a flat fee for a degree. Most legitimate institutions charge by credit, course or semester.

How to Beat Education Scams

When it comes to beating college scams, once again, a little bit of education can go a long way.

These scams are often tricky to parcel out, as there are many legitimate companies and scholarships out there offering similar services. Your best bet in these cases is to arm yourself with a bit of research, including:

To avoid college scams, NEVER:

  •  Give out any sensitive financial information, including your bank account and credit card numbers.
  •  Give out your FSA ID, password, PIN code, or other personal information.
  •  Agree to a debt collector on the phone. Hang up, do some research, and call back on an official customer service phone number you find online.
  •  Pay for a scholarship or loan consolidation.
  •  Let someone else fill out your FAFSA or other loan paperwork.

Fallen Victim to an Education Scam?

If you think you're the victim of an education scam, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

First, you can—and should—report the scam to:

If you gave away sensitive personal information, you should also:

  • Follow the steps to recover from identity theft.
  • Change any passwords, PINs, or other access information connected to any related accounts.
  • Change your FSA login information.
  • Notify your bank and credit card company about the situation.
  • Cancel any credit or debit cards under your name and open new accounts.

If you paid a fraudulent company, you should contact your bank as quickly as possible to explain the situation and see if there's any way to cancel the payment.

Scams Relating to Education

Sort by:
Honor Society Foundation Scam: Protect Yourself From Imposters
13 September 2021 |

Honor Society Foundation Scam: Protect Yourself From Imposters

You may think you're being invited to an honor society, but you could be the target of a nationwide scam aimed at students.

Scams in Other Categories...
Tips to Avoid Fake Lottery Tickets Being Sold as "Winners"
12 January 2022 |

Tips to Avoid Fake Lottery Tickets Being Sold as "Winners"

Always be wary of strangers trying to sell you "winning" lottery tickets that they can't cash in—they're more than likely trying to scam you out of hundreds of dollars.

Cash App Rental Scam: Don't Fall For These Common Tricks
11 January 2022 |

Cash App Rental Scam: Don't Fall For These Common Tricks

Scammers are taking advantage of renters desperate and in a rush to find a new home, stealing thousands from innocent people.

Genuine Navy Federal Email Or a Fake? 6 Ways to Spot a Scam

Genuine Navy Federal Email Or a Fake? 6 Ways to Spot a Scam

Be careful before clicking on links in Navy Federal emails—scammers impersonate the popular credit union in an attempt to steal your information.

Received an Amazon OTP Text? It Could Be a Scam
22 December 2021 |

Received an Amazon OTP Text? It Could Be a Scam

If you received an Amazon OTP text message out of the blue, it could be a sign that someone else is trying to log into your account.

Be On Alert for Fake COVID-19 Tests That Rip You Off

Be On Alert for Fake COVID-19 Tests That Rip You Off

Need to get tested? Only get tested at healthcare facilities or pharmacies, or buy at-home tests that are FDA-approved.

Amazon OTP Delivery Email: Protection Against Fraud
20 December 2021 |

Amazon OTP Delivery Email: Protection Against Fraud

You can fight scammers who order big-ticket items from your Amazon account with a one-time password that stops them from receiving the item.

Publishers Clearing House Scam Mail: Red Flags

Publishers Clearing House Scam Mail: Red Flags

It may be exciting to receive a letter telling you you've won a huge sweepstakes prize, but before you celebrate, verify the letter first. More often than not, it's a scam.

Publishers Clearing House Scam: Red Flags of Fake Websites
16 December 2021 |

Publishers Clearing House Scam: Red Flags of Fake Websites

When entering PCH sweepstakes to win money and other prizes, make sure you're on the actual PCH website and not a fake version.

Warning Signs of Publishers Clearing House Fake Checks

Warning Signs of Publishers Clearing House Fake Checks

If you receive a check in the mail from Publishers Clearing House from winning a sweepstake, don't celebrate just yet.

Guides Relating to Education

Sort by:
How to Avoid Honor Society Scams & Why You Should Pick a Local Chapter
24 September 2021 |

How to Avoid Honor Society Scams & Why You Should Pick a Local Chapter

With so many honor societies across the country, it can be difficult to decide which one to join. Here's why you should join a local chapter.

MASK: The Non-Profit Keeping Your Children Safe Online
8 September 2021 |

MASK: The Non-Profit Keeping Your Children Safe Online

An important step in keeping your kids safe online is to keep everyone, including yourself, educated. MASK is an organization that can help.

How to Report a Scam Website and Why It's Important

How to Report a Scam Website and Why It's Important

With more than 2 million fake websites online, it's important to report any you come across to help the authorities shut them down and protect others from falling for scams.

Guides in Other Categories...
Top 5 ID Protection Services: Editor's Picks for 2022
14 January 2022 |

Top 5 ID Protection Services: Editor's Picks for 2022

From under $10/month, you can help keep your identity safe from scammers and hackers. If you're worried about identity theft, it's well worth the investment.

Best Free Password Managers: Our Top 6 Picks for 2022

Best Free Password Managers: Our Top 6 Picks for 2022

Keeping your passwords safe and secure doesn't require an expensive subscription—there are plenty of free password managers out there that will do the job well.

News Relating to Education

Sort by:
Student Loan Scammers Arrested After Stealing $6.1 Million
22 September 2021 |

Student Loan Scammers Arrested After Stealing $6.1 Million

After a 3-year long scam, Angela Mirabella and six others have been indicted on several charges, including grand theft.

Government Preps to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Fake University
2 August 2021 |

Government Preps to Dismiss Lawsuit Against Fake University

After enrolling in a fake university set up by ICE, students who lost millions of dollars are to be disappointed by the U.S. government yet again.

Lori Loughlin Enters Prison for College Admissions Scam
1 November 2020 |

Lori Loughlin Enters Prison for College Admissions Scam

Louri Loughlin and her husband were both convicted in the College Admissions scam. They participated in a fraud to get their daughters into college. Loughlin is 'owning it'.

News in Other Categories...
$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles
2 December 2021 |

$30M Worth in Counterfeit Goods Seized in Los Angeles

Fake Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton handbags and clothing were just some of the items found in a large shipment of counterfeit goods coming in from China.

RobinHood Customers Are About to Be Phished—Here's What it Will Look Like (Examples)
18 November 2021 |

RobinHood Customers Are About to Be Phished—Here's What it Will Look Like (Examples)

Robinhood's latest data breach of 5 million email addresses means that Robinhood users are about to encounter a wave of phishing attempts.