By Meredith Sell
On Jan. 14, Director of Financial Aid, Tim Nace, sent a message through Student E-News warning of a scam. This scam,operating under the guise of the Robert Sterling Foundation, takes student banking information and uses it to withdraw money from students' accounts.
"We encourage you to delete any emails or discard any mailings from the Robert Sterling Foundation to avoid this scam," Nace's message read.
With college costs always on the rise, scholarships are increasingly important to low- and medium-income students. Unfortunately, scams like the Robert Sterling Foundation are not uncommon.
"This was the first one that popped up in quite some time," Nace says. "But the beginning of the year is scams' prime time, with future freshmen looking for money and many organizations awarding scholarships.
According to finaid.org, scams "often imitate legitimate government agencies, grant-giving foundations, educational lenders, and scholarship matching services."
The Robert Sterling Foundation, which asks its applicants to send their information to an address in Los Angeles, is only one word different from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, a legitimate grant-giving foundation based in New York City.
Warning signs of a scam include processing fees, guaranteed awards and applications requiring credit card or bank account information.
"Generally, if you receive a scholarship that you didn't apply for or if you have to pay a fee for a scholarship, this is more than likely a scam to be avoided," according to Nace's E-News message.
If the organization has no phone number, or if it has a Post Office Box or residential address, it is most likely fraudulent. The same if there is no proof of past winners, if winners are notified by phone, and if scholarships are first come, first serve. Spelling and grammatical errors are another giveaway.
Scholarship checks from outside organizations should be given to the Bursar's Office, not deposited into personal accounts.
"Be aware and be perceptive," Nace says. "If it sounds too good to be true, it is."