What Is A Bursary Scam And How Can You Avoid It?

Many of us have been targets or victims of fraud at some point in our lives and in various capacities. Whether you’ve been bombarded with spam emails claiming that you are qualified to receive large sums of money, phone calls claiming that debt collectors are after you, or maybe even online click-bait “requiring” your credit card information… scammers have ample access to the innocent. A whole lot of wild claims for a whole lot of nothing. Unfortunately, bursary applicants are no exception.

Scammers are able to take advantage of the widely sought-after bursary due to the large number of students who are swimming in a pool of student loan debt – or students who are about to dive in headfirst. So, what is their scam? They claim to have bursary money to grant to high school seniors and college students, often guaranteed. But there is always a catch.

Here are some major red flags to keep on your radar:

  1. They ask for your credit card information or any kind of payment up front. Sounds convoluted, right? Unfortunately, people fall for it all the time. It seems pretty obvious; you’re applying for financial aid, so why would you pay them? But, the problem is that they frame it in a way that is convincing. They call it a processing fee, or say it’s needed because the bursary is guaranteed whereas normally it is not. Or, they will claim that your credit card is necessary to secure your qualification and funds, but it “won’t be charged.” Think about it… you have to pay to get money? Doesn’t add up, does it? You should NEVER be required to provide your credit card or banking information in order to apply for a bursary. Why? Because the majority of the time the application process is 100% free, with very few exceptions
  2. They claim you won a bursary that you never even applied for, let alone heard of. You HAVE to submit an application for a bursary to be considered. Plain and simple. There is no such thing as winning a bursary that you never applied for. Sure, you may be referred to a bursary program, but that’s all it is… a referral. You will still have to submit your personal information and most often, an essay. Be wary of “You Won!” mail and phone calls.
  3. They are overly time-sensitive. Deadlines do exist in the bursary world but the bursary committee will not chase you down for your application… that is entirely on you. Trustworthy programs receive enough organic applications that they don’t need to find more people to apply, especially when they are really under time constraints to sift through their growing stack of contenders. If a member of the bursary program contacts and pressures you to respond quickly, chances are it is not legitimate. You may be made to believe that the financial aid is granted on a first-come-first-served basis, so you’d better act fast! Why would just anyone be able to get free money? That’s part of the reason why we work hard in school and in our extracurricular activities – to be qualified for university and things like bursaries.
  4. They say they will take care of the application for you. No, no, and no! First of all, how in the world is someone you don’t even know supposed to say the right things on your behalf and know all of your personal details? Secondly, this is entirely unrealistic. Sure, the application process can be pretty time consuming, but that is no reason for an individual or company to take care of it for you. This is where the so-called “processing fee” usually comes into play. “We’ll do the work for you. You just sit back, relax and send us your banking information in order for us to complete and submit your application. Don’t worry, it’s a guaranteed win.” Not only will it be fake and inaccurate, but you could get barred from the bursary altogether if someone finds out.

How Can I Avoid A Bursary Scam?

These days, scammers are becoming more and more tactful in their approach. They are aggressive, they tend to flatter their target, and they make offers that seem too good to be true. They do whatever they can to win over stressed and vulnerable students who often don’t know any better. However, there are ways to detect a scam and that is largely due to the ridiculous claims that they make. Watch out for revealing lines such as these:

  • Guaranteed or your money back. HA! Nothing is guaranteed, especially financial aid.
  • Please provide your credit card or banking information to secure this bursary. Why, so you can charge it and disappear?
  • We’ll do all the work if you pay this processing fee. Pay money to be gifted money?
  • You’ve been selected… How? How was I selected? How did you find me? How do I qualify?

If you are ever in a situation that feels illegitimate, pause and do your research. Don’t buy into rush tactics, don’t get sucked into big headlines screaming that you’ve won a bunch of bursary money, and absolutely DO NOT give your credit card or banking information to anyone.

For many potential university students, bursaries are a must. Higher education can be incredibly expensive, but that shouldn’t deter you from attending. Money should never stop an individual from getting an education, and that is exactly why bursaries exist in the first place. If you are having trouble finding a legitimate bursary source, talk to an advisor who can guide you toward your best options. Most importantly, work hard in school so that when it comes time to apply and (hopefully) qualify, your application passes with flying colors!