Warning about a student financial aid scams

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Money is top of mind for many high school seniors, particularly how to get enough of it through loans, scholarships, and other financial aid to pay for college.

The process is made more difficult thanks to the many scam artists preying on unsuspecting young people.

LeOnda Sizer is one of them. She was simply applying for financial aid for cosmetology school when the difference between .gov and .com made all the difference.

"I typed in .com because everything is that way and I started filling out the information. I gave everything from my social security number and date of birth to my address, all of it," Sizer said.

Unfortunately, instead of typing it into the official Free Application for Federal Student Aid website, which is ends in .gov, she was taken to a website set to draw you in. It has logos and seals that make it look legitimate, and it likely does do the filing of the forms for you, but it charges you an $80 fee for that service.

"I said wait a minute, 80 bucks? I thought FAFSA was supposed to be free," Sizer said.

She stopped filling out the form and did not pay the fee.

Tom Bartholomy with the Better Business Bureau says some sites like this simply want that fee from you. Others want to sell your info. Your first clue is in the website's privacy policy and you should read it.

"Some will be very straight up about it and say we're going to take your info and package it and sell it to whoever will buy it and thank you very much," Bartholomy said.

LeOnda said the phony site took her two hours to fill out while the real one only took 15 minutes and it linked directly with the IRS website which automatically filled in the financial information.

The BBB's recommendation for her is that she get a baseline copy of her credit report free from the Annual Credit Report website. Click here to get yours. If her report shows any recent inquiries she should immediately have fraud protection put onto her record.

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