LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — College courses will be starting soon. A big part of a student's scholastic journey is navigating school costs and financial aid.
It can be a stressful time, but beware. But we've got a warning when it comes to applying for grants and scholarships.
"It can be overwhelming. It's very tedious. I've narrowed down which scholarships fit best for me and that I think I'm a good applicant for," says UNLV student, Kaeli Bauman.
She's working on a Bachelor's degree in Interior Architecture and Design. Like so many college students, she says financial assistance is the only way she can afford school.
"Without grants, scholarships, financial aid, it probably wouldn't be possible," says Kaeli.
But she worked hard to find the help she needed.
"Narrowing down what specific organizations and companies within the industry... and picking up the phone and actually having real conversations," says Kaeli.
"Unfortunately, financial aid scams, student loan repayment scams, they are everywhere," says Elaine Rubin, Director of Corporate Communications at Edvisors.
Edvisors is a free online resource for finding information about how to pay for college. Elaine says, just like Kaeli, do your research because plenty of unscrupulous resources are trying to get their hands on your personal information.
"Bank account information, credit card information, or even common credentials. Things like your FSA ID which you might have used to complete your FASFA," says Elaine.
To protect yourself, watch out for three major red flags. Number one: Any fees associated with getting financial aid.
"If someone's asking you for money to get a grant or scholarship, you really want to proceed with caution, if not stay away completely because it could be a scam," says Elaine.
Number two: Beware of offers that guarantee funding.
"Most of the time if you're applying for a scholarship or a grant you have to meet eligibility criteria. You have to apply and then you have to see what your chances are to actually earn that," says Elaine.
And number three: Beware of any cold contact that isn't addressed to you specifically. Legitimate resources will already have some of your basic information.
In the end, Elaine says if you think you've shared too much information with the wrong people, be sure to put a freeze on your credit.
"The Federal Trade Commission is actually taking reports of these scams. So, you want to report with them," says Elaine.
As for Kaeli, she has a word of encouragement for anyone still looking for ways to pay for college.
"I've applied for so many scholarships and not been the one chosen, but just don't get discouraged... Don't compare yourself to the other applicants because everybody is chosen for different reasons. So there's one better out there for you," says Kaeli.
Edvisors has more information on how to identify scams, plus more on what you should do if you've fallen victim.