Barnett warns students of bogus plans

Barnett warns students of bogus plans Attorney General Mark Barnett announced today the start of his Consumer Protection Division's Scam-of-the-Month. The new program begins as a way to better educate South Dakota on consumer issues, current scams, and prevention techniques. "We continue to see South Dakotans victimized by scam artists and education is one way we can stop some of these problems," Barnett said.

This month, Barnett warns of bogus and fraudulent scholarship offers. "Hundreds of South Dakotan high school students are now looking for scholarships in preparation for college," Barnett said. "Students and parents need to be aware of potential scams involving scholarship services."

As students and parents begin to arrange financing for college and other post-secondary education, scam artists operating scholarship searches will promise "free money" for just a small up-front fee. In most cases, these companies simply will provide a public list of scholarships and grants for which a student supposedly is eligible to apply. Often, however, the student doesn't meet the qualifications or the deadlines have already expired. In other cases, the supposed scholarships turn out to be federal loan programs, or just contests.

The Division of Consumer Protection received dozens of complaints and inquiries each year regarding scholarship services. In nearly each case, South Dakota students paid a fee and received no scholarship money in return, despite the "guarantees" by the scholarship service company.

Rather than dealing with companies charging a fee for information, students interested in receiving information on college scholarships should contact their high school guidance counselors or the school they plan to attend, where reliable scholarship information is available free of charge.

"College costs are a big concern for families today and some companies take advantage of those worries for a quick buck. That's the last thing South Dakota students should be concerned with as they head toward college," Barnett said.

Consumers with questions or complaints regarding scholarship offers or with tips on new scams are encouraged to call the Consumer Helpline at 1-800-300-1986.

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