The back-to-school season can be a busy time for families. Unfortunately, scammers are busy this time of year, too.
Carefully evaluate back-to-school offers. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:
Scholarship or grant scams: Be wary if someone asks you for advance fees in exchange for helping to find or obtain scholarships or grants. You usually can find scholarship information online for little or no cost. If a scholarship is legitimate, it shouldn’t require an advance fee. The government will not ask for processing fees for grants you have already been awarded. If you are looking for grants for higher education, these are awarded through each school’s financial aid office after potential recipients fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at www.fafsa.gov.
Identity theft: Providing information to receive financial aid may make you vulnerable to identity theft. Make sure you are applying through the proper site, www.fafsa.gov. Don’t provide personal information over the Internet or phone unless you initiate the process. Services that ask for personal information and a fee to file for financial aid may sell your personal information or use it improperly. To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, review financial aid statements and keep track of amounts owed. View your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com to see what accounts are associated with your name. You can do this for free three times a year — once through each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Job scams: If you want to make extra money while you’re in school, keep in mind that some job postings are fraudulent. Never pay someone in order to get a job, and beware of online ads that promise great earning potential but offer little concrete information about the work. Don’t trust potential employers who say they’re out of the country and will pay you to process funds or run errands for them. Also be skeptical of offers for “mystery shopper” positions. These are often scams.
If you’ve been a victim of an unfair practice or scam, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov
Also, check out the Attorney General’s tips for evaluating advertisements and knowing your rights