Federal Student Aid (FSA) scams and fraud happen more often than you might think. There are a lot of dishonest individuals in the world who take advantage of people who may not fully understand the process behind applying and securing FSA. It is extremely important that you adhere to these best practices to avoid falling for scams or becoming a victim of FSA fraud.
There are countless scammers out there trying to take advantage of people who want to further their education. Some of these scammers target desperate individuals who are not even trying to go to college, but just need some financial help. Other scammers are really good at what they do and can fool even the most informed students. There are some general rules to follow to keep yourself from getting scammed.
- Never pay someone to help you find financial aid, or to help you with a simple task like filling out the FAFSA. Sure, researching financial aid options and filling out the FAFSA take effort, but doing both is free of charge. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Use a financial aid counselor at the school(s) you are interested in to get information. FSA counselors are your best source of information. Do not take advice from bloggers, friends, or anyone else who is not a FSA professional.
FSA fraud is prevalent in higher education. Identity theft is the most serious form of fraud, and it can be quite debilitating to have to go through identity theft. Having your identity stolen can harm your financial situation and it is extremely frustrating to fix. Follow these general rules to help combat identity theft.
- NEVER give your personal identification information (social security number, full name, date of birth, etc.) to an outside party. Your school will need that information, and it is ok to provide all of that on your FAFSA. However, do not give your information to someone else so they can fill out the FAFSA for you. If you see an ad asking for this information in order to get financial assistance, do not answer it.
- Keep all of your personal documents in a secure place. When you do have to take them out of that secure place, make sure you have a firm hold on them at all times. Losing your social security card is a good way to have your identity stolen.
- If you do lose your personal document(s), or you are notified that you are a victim of unauthorized access or identity theft, immediately contact all necessary parties. This includes the police, the school at which the identity theft occurred, and any governmental agency (Department of Education, Social Security Administration, etc.) that may be able to help. Identity theft can be corrected, but it requires immediate action on your part.
Even though scams and fraud happen every day, you can protect yourself from these situations if you follow the above tips. Most instances of scams and fraud can be combated just by being informed and careful. If you ever have any questions about FSA, make sure you contact a counselor at your school. They are trained to provide you with safe, accurate information.
By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews