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When you or your children are ready to go to school, whether it be a private high school or a college or university academic program, scholarship scams run frantic. Con artists prey on kids' need to have scholarship money, and parents' willingness to save as much money as humanly possible. Here are some common scholarship scams and how you can avoid them.

• Scholarship guarantees. These are companies that contact you, usually by mail, claiming that they'll guarantee you scholarship money or you get your money back. But the facts are that no one can ever "guarantee" you'll get scholarship money. These companies charge a fee of usually $50-100 and will send you a list of places offering scholarships that you might qualify for. They may give you your money back, but after months pass and you don't win any scholarships, you usually forget about your money.
• Companies that claim they'll do all the work. Some scholarship companies may claim that they'll do all the work for you. But let's face it. This is not true. There's no scholarship or grant that you'll ever come across that you won't personally have to apply for by filling out an application.
• Companies that claim you're a finalist. You may get a letter in the mail from a scholarship company claiming that you're a finalist to win a major scholarship from their company. You simply have to fill out the enclosed application and a check, and they'll let you know if you've won. This is a trick to get your money. Scholarship money won't come to you. You need to go find it.
• Companies that want credit card or bank account information. Some scholarship companies will ask you to fill out an application and list all your credit and bank information, including personal account information. They may try to tell you that that information is needed in order to determine a level of need for the money. But you should never give out any personal information like that to someone you don't trust.