Don’t Get Caught in a FAFSA Scam
It’s FAFSA season, and there are forms to fill out and applications to submit. It can get quite overwhelming, and scammers know this. They’re out in full force, trying to get unsuspecting students and their parents to fall for their scams. Here’s what you need to know about FAFSA scams and how to avoid falling victim.
How FAFSA scams play out
In a typical FAFSA scam, a college student, applicant or their parents, will be targeted with ads by a “financial aid company” claiming it can help them procure financial aid for college. This can include grants, loans, work-study programs and more. The catch? They’ll ask for a sizable processing fee for handling all the paperwork and helping the student obtain financial aid.
In reality, this company is simply filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(link is external) (FAFSA), the free form that determines eligibility for federal aid. Sometimes, they’ll share this with the victim and ask for their FSA ID. In other scenarios, they’ll keep this private and only tell the victim that they’ve managed to get them financial aid.
While filling out the FAFSA form for the victim, the scammer may falsify the information so the victim qualifies for more aid, which is, of course, completely illegal. Getting caught in a FAFSA scam can mean losing out on the money that’s paid for filling out the application, and potentially facing fines of up to $20,000 and/or jail time for writing false information on your form. In the worst variation of these scams, the fraudster uses the victim’s FSA ID to fill out a form and then gains access to their account to take control of their personal information.
Watch out for these red flags which can alert you to a potential FAFSA scam:
- You’re asked to pay a substantial fee for help with filling out a financial aid form.
- You’re asked to share your FSA ID with someone who is not a member of your family.
- The ad offering help with your FAFSA is full of typos and grammatical errors.
Remember that your FSA ID, which includes your username and password, is sensitive information that should never be shared. In addition, it is always free to fill out your FAFSA form and submit it through the studentaid.gov(link is external) website.
If you’re in the process of applying for financial aid for college, follow these steps:
- Fill out the free FAFSA form(link is external) to apply for financial aid. You can also fill out the form using the free myStudentAid(link is external) app, available on Apple(link is external) and Google Play(link is external).
- Speak to a guidance counselor at your high school or the financial aid office at your college about your financial aid options.
- Never pay anyone to fill out your financial aid form.
FAFSA forms can be tedious to fill out, but getting scammed is a lot worse. Use these tips to stay safe!