(WMC TV) - We've saved. We've scrimped. Now our daughter's a senior in high school.
We're already on the Wises' Southeast tour of colleges and universities. Despite all our savings, it looks like tuition and expenses will still be a tall order.
My wife and I are learning a lot about scholarships and financial aid.
We're also learning a lot about scholarship and financial aid scams.
The federal General Services Administration's (GSA) Consumer Action Handbook (www.consumeraction.gov) revealed the signs of scholarship scams:
* UNSOLICITED OFFERS. A phone call, e-mail, snail mail, whatever. If you didn't request information about that scholarship offer that came out of the blue, blow it off.
* "MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE." When an alleged scholarship or financial aid source offers a money-back guarantee in order to "secure" your spot, stop! It has no intention of giving you a refund. You can bet the scam artist will add conditions that will make a refund impossible.
* "SECRET SCHOLARSHIPS." If a company or solicitor claims to have "inside information" about a little-known scholarship, that's a lie. All scholarship opportunities are public information. That information's free through your local library, school counselor or government.
* UP-FRONT/MONTHLY/WEEKLY FEES. A monthly note on a student loan is one thing. Adding regular fees or a big fat one up front is a sign of a scam.
* BANK ACCOUNT INFORMATION "TO CONFIRM YOUR ELIGIBILITY." If the offer requests your bank account number in order to confirm you are eligible for the benefit, someone's trying to steal your personal information.
Your high school guidance counselor or your prospective college's admissions office, registrar or alumni association are your best resources for real scholarship and financial aid information.
So are these:
Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC): www.studentaid.ed.gov
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators: www.nasfaa.org
Department of Education: www2.ed.gov/fund/grants-college.html