How to identify scholarship scams

Many have lost the little savings they would have budgeted after being promised full or partial scholarships.

DAY-TO-DAY challenges have pushed Zimbabweans to leave the country and look for better education and job opportunities abroad. With many Zimbabweans living in abject poverty due to the continuing economic decline, funding tertiary education has been difficult.

Luckily, there have been local and international scholarships that have helped parents of bright students lessen that burden. Regrettably, there have been several groups of people that prey on students looking for scholarships. Many have lost the little savings they would have budgeted after being promised full or partial scholarships.

The back stage dealers usually ask for personal and financial information from the students, under the guise of helping them apply for their scholarships. Characteristics of scholarship scams include cash up front scholarship cons where they ask students to pay them first. This can be in the form of a redemption fee prior to students being able to claim a scholarship.

They will find themselves paying money to receive a scholarship. After the scammers receive the payment, they disappear. Advance-fee loan scholarship scams give students advance loans to trick them through low-interest educational schemes. The catch is students will have to pay a processing fee before they can get a loan. As usual, once they pay, the scammers vanish.

Sometimes, if they do not read the fine print, students run into problems. Most international educational loans do not collect fees prior to giving students loans. They are usually deducted from disbursement payments once they are released.

Students must check if their loans are issued by recognised banks. If they have never heard of them, or cannot find information about them online, they should be cautious.  Some companies and organisations help students search for scholarships.

This is obviously not an issue, but a common scam appears in services that help them handle the search and paperwork in exchange for a processing fee. They will usually have an enticing clause such as “we will secure you a scholarship or you will get your processing fee back”.

They may also claim that they have programmes that will help students become eligible for "financial aid in the United States of America" or a "student loan in the United Kingdom". Some scams occur during the signing stage. Students may be asked to pay a processing fee when sending in an application.

It may just be a small fee that the scholarship says is for weeding out non-serious applicants. Students must stay clear of these. Scholarships aim to give money to students, not to take away.

Application fees are one of the most common scams. Scammers find them easy to get away with. Most people, upon payment, will never hear back from scammers.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. There are also processing fees that will be requested once students identify the scholarships that they require. Again, once the payment is made, student will not hear from scammers.

No genuine scholarship providing agency, government or organisation will ask for payment from their potential candidates. Scholarship providers, especially those that target a particular demographic group, typically want to offer equal opportunities to all who may be qualified.

 To completely prevent themselves from being scammed, students must not pay a cent for any scholarship application.

  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd. He is also the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe. Institution of Engineers.

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