Students and parents should beware of organizations that are financial aid scams, promising help in a tight economy.

Letters from the College Financial Advisory, located in San Diego, Calif. have been circulating among Tyler Junior College students.

The letter is address to the student and their parents. It asks them to fill out and submit an enclosed student profile, which asks for a student profile number that is in the format of a Social Security number. The letter also requests that the student send a $48 processing fee.

“I received the letter, but decided to disregard it,” freshman Savannah Wendell said.

It seemed strange that they asked for a $48 processing fee while promising free financial aid.”

The CFA targets middle-income families, who are not wealthy enough to cover the cost of college on their own, but do not have incomes low enough to qualify for need-base aid.

“People who cannot receive financial aid from the government or were not awarded enough aid might be tricked into the scam because they are so desperate to pay for college,” Wendell said.

Students should avoid offers from organizations that say they can help locate more aid and then will a fee. Also avoid any organization that charges you a fee for information about financial aid, a fee to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and if they charge a fee to receive financial aid.

“Do not send any money. Please ignore the letter and throw it away.”

“Pass the word to your friends about the ‘scam’,” Devon Wiggins, director of financial aid, said.

Students should also beware of offers that promise scholarships guaranteed or your money back. No one can guarantee your scholarship before it is awarded.

Also watch out for companies that need your credit card information to hold your scholarship. You should never have to give this information to legitimate providers.

“Students or families who have received this letter should contact the financial office as soon as possible,” Wiggins said. “And those who have fallen for this scam should write a formal letter requesting their money be refunded.”

To avoid being scammed, check the legitimacy of scholarship search organizations.

For information about financial aid scams and tips to avoid being scammed contact the Better Business Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, or the Federal Trade Commission.

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