We almost got scammed!

I’m not sure I can name names here, so I’m not going to put the name of the outfit (unless a mod wanders through and authorizes it.)

Ivylad and I received a letter from an outfit we’ll call X. X offers financial aid and scholarship information to parents of high school students.

We had recently received a scholarship to send our daughter to the same private school our son attends, so we thought they were offering to help with our son’s college costs. We received a reservation number along with a number to call to make an appointment.

We were fairly excited about the prospect of locking up our son’s financial aid stuff so early (he’s only in 9th grade), so we made the appointment for 4pm this afternoon.

Then, for some reason, I decided to take a close look at the letter. (I know, dumb me for not doing it sooner.)

(bolding mine.) I also noticed the letter came from a different state from the people who gave our daughter her scholarship.

A warning bell sounded, and I hopped on line to Google, typing in “X scam.” Sure enough, this outfit charges anywhere from $600-$1000 for information available for free directly from the universities.

I notified the local tv stations, radio stations, the newspaper, and the police that this was going on this weekend. Ivylad and I are debating whether or not to go to the seminar and confront them, but I don’t know what good that would do. A couple of the media outlets seemed interested in my information and may be calling me back.

I just wished I had noticed sooner so I could have warned the school. They could have notified the parents of the other students who got this letter. According to my Google search, the group seminar by X is spent trying to frighten anxious parents about their inability to pay for college or lack of understanding on applying for financial aid. Then the families are asked to pay large fees for additional services. The information the families get is either never delivered, or very generic and vague.

Whew. Dodged a bullet there.

It’s called reading the fine print. I don’t see where there is a scam when they stated there would be a fee. Besides, how many companies perform services for people for a fee that you could do yourself for free if you were willing to put some time and effort into it?

We’ve gotten several similar letters. I just tossed them after I read what they were about. The guidance department provides tons of scholarship info - we don’t need to pay someone for what we get for nothing.

It was just so weird to type the information in Google and see the exact same letter we got pop up under the “scam” section.

Ivylad will probably go to the school on Monday and talk to them about it. This school is very proactive when it comes to applying for scholarships, so I guess when it’s time for us to be thinking about it, they will send us the appopriate information.

Good for you, ivylass. I’ve heard of these scams before. When I worked in a Financial Aid office, we used to warn students about any “scholarship search service” or “financial aid consultants” that charged a fee for this type of “assistance” (whoa, that’s a lot of quotation marks). Good job that you saw it was nothing more than a scam perpetrated by greedy opportunists.

Bottom line, getting financial aid is definitely a royal pain, perhaps more than it needs to be. But you sure as hell don’t need to pay somebody to do it for you. Anybody who can fill out a college admissions application can handle the process of applying for financial aid. It’s great that you contacted some media outlets about these scam artists. Unfortunately, what they’re doing isn’t illegal, just dishonest, so even if Mike Wallace goes in with guns-a-blazin’ and does a big exposé, it won’t stop them. As long as there are people innocent enough to fall for their crap, they’ll be in business. Although some good old-fashioned muckraking would raise awareness of this kind of thing, which would be good.

Duckster, if you don’t like “scam”, how about “con-game”?

My parents got scammed by something similar to this just before I entered college. This place said they were a nonprofit organization and for a fee would search for scholarships from sources far and wide, giving you a chance at hard-to-find scholarships with few applicants. I think they charged like $1400, which would be refunded when I graduated from college. We did get a few mailings from them and they set up a profile for me and stuff, but after awhile, nothing. They went bankrupt, or some such. My mom has been in contact with the State Attorney General’s office of their home state (Oregon, IIRC) but it looks like they will never see that money again. My parents were going to give the money to me as a graduation gift, too :frowning:

I’m not so sure I would even call it a con game, either. Are they doing anything illegal? While ivylass certainly has a concern but was there something illegal going on here? They did state in the fine print there would be a fee involved. What makes this so different from all those TV commercials promting everything under the sun, yet the fine print says “Results are not typical.” or “A fee for services is charged,” etc?

However, there is a difference between having fine print information that most people apparently never read until after they sign on the dotted line, and failing to deliver goods and/or services as promised.

No, there’s nothing illegal about it, but it is a confidence game in my opinion. Kids going off to college is a stressful, traumatic time for a family, so they’re vulnerable. Outfits like this hard-sell the fact that applying for financial aid can sometimes be intimidating. They hint that there are “hidden” sources of money out there, and their service can tell you where to find them. They ask for your trust, then they charge money for services that they’ve neglected to tell you are readily available for free from other sources!

ivylass, have you checked out www.fastweb.com? That’s the scholarship search engine my office used to recommend to students. It’s powered by monster.com, and it’s free. The school’s financial aid office (assuming it’s any good), and maybe a search engine like this, is all anyone should need to assist them in the financial aid process.

European and Canadian Dopers: Stop laughing, ya’ lucky bastards!

I saw a mention of fastweb.com on one of the sites that debunked Company X. I’m going to check it out. 9th grade isn’t too early, is it?

I think you’ll find that the majority of scholarships are meant to be applied to the following academic year. Springtime of the student’s junior year is a good time to start doing this type of research. There’s a very limited amount you can accomplish by starting in 9th grade.