Anytime you share personal financial information about you or your family, you need to be aware of potential scams.

If you have any questions regarding any financial aid information you receive, please contact our office for assistance.

Refer to the sections below for important information about protecting yourself and your money during the financial aid process.

Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft is what happens when someone takes personal information from you and uses it to acquire credit or make purchases under your name. It is important to learn how to keep your personal information as secure as possible from identity theft.
To protect yourself from identity theft, we recommend that you:

  • Shred documents such as pre-approved credit card offers.
  • Shred or protect bank and credit card statements.
  • If you expect a new credit card or bank card, make sure you receive it within the allotted time. If not, contact the issuer immediately and make sure the card was sent.
  • Get a post office box or locked mailbox to prevent theft.
  • Protect all accounts with passwords incorporating made-up words. Change passwords that use your mother's maiden name.
  • Memorize your Social Security number and passwords.
  • When re-ordering checks, send them to your bank, not your home address.
  • Avoid “Phishing.” The term refers to unsolicited emails that bear the logo of a bank or credit cards. They appear legitimate, but are actually traps to lure you into giving out your account numbers. Never give out identifying numbers such as Social Security number, credit card or bank account numbers to an unsolicited emailer or caller.
  • Avoid using your Social Security number as an ID number with an institution. If an institution uses your Social Security number as an ID number, ask if you can change it to a different number.
  • Do not carry identifiers such as a Social Security card, passport, or birth certificate with you.
  • Notify your bank or credit card company if you are missing a statement or suspect it was stolen.
  • Order your credit report at least once a year (free nationwide) by calling 877-322-8228 or at www.annualcreditreport.com. For any fraudulent items on your report, call the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) immediately and place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Make a list of all credit card account numbers and bank account numbers (including customer service numbers), and keep it in a safe place.
  • Do not store bank or credit card account numbers on your computer.

Ball State does not advise you to pay for scholarship search services. Each year, the U.S. Department of Education receives numerous complaints from students and parents who did not receive the information they expected from a paid scholarship search service.

Ball State does not evaluate private scholarship search services. If you decide to use one of these services, you should check its reputation by contacting the Better Business Bureau, a school guidance counselor, or a state attorney general’s office.
Additionally, investigate the organization yourself before making a commitment:

  • Ask for names of three or four local families who have used its services recently.
  • Ask how many students have used the service and how many of them received scholarships as a result.
  • Find out about the service’s refund policy.
  • Get everything in writing.
  • Read all the fine print before signing anything.

Questionable Tactics to Monitor

Some services will tell you that millions of dollars in student aid go unclaimed every year. The large figures you may hear or read about usually represent an estimated national total of employee benefits or member benefits. Usually, such benefits are available only to the employees (and their families) of a specific company, or to the members of a specific union or other organization.

Some claim that you can't get the same information anywhere else. Many services make you pay to get information you could have received for free from a college financial aid office, state education agency, local library, the U.S. Department of Education, or the Internet. Remember that you can find out about student aid without paying a fee to a search service.

Others request your credit card or bank account number to hold student financial aid for you. Search services do not, in most cases, provide any awards directly to applicants, apply on behalf of applicants, or act as a disbursing agent for financial aid providers. You should never give out a credit card or bank account number unless you know the company or organization you are giving it to is legitimate.

Others try to get you to send them money by claiming that you are a finalist in a scholarship contest. Most sources of financial aid have application deadlines and eligibility criteria; they do not, generally, operate like a sweepstakes.

Scholarship seminars frequently end with one-on-one meetings in which a salesperson pressures the student to "buy now or lose out on this opportunity." Legitimate services don't use such pressure tactics.

The Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act created a fraud-awareness partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). For more information about scholarship scams or to report a scam, call the FTC toll-free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).