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College financial aid scams on the rise

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TYLER (KYTX) - The Better Business Bureau of East Texas is warning college-bound students and their parents to beware of a wide range of financial aid scams. That type of scam is growing, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Graduate student Leah McComb visited UT Tyler's student enrollment center Thursday. She was checking to make sure everything was in place to start classes.

"I kind of want to be a history professor," she said of her return to academia. "School is really expensive, but there are ways to get through it."

The first time around McComb said she had her parents helping to navigate the daunting federal financial aid process.

"Now I'm trying to figure it out all on my own," McComb said. "It's really complicated. There's a lot of different steps you have to take."

That confusion is exactly what scammers are hoping to take advantage of--with unsolicited offers claiming to help pay for school.

"That's a red flag," Kaylen Burgess with the East Texas Better Business Bureau said. "You know that no one's going to give you money, unfortunately, unless you apply for it."

It's not just one scam. There are offers of a big scholarship in exchange for a small "administrative" or "processing" fee. Other scammers claim to do the work for you and find scholarships for a fee without producing any results.

Financial aid specialists at UT Tyler said you shouldn't have to pay for scholarships.

"And once they do that they're left without a scholarship and unfortunately even less money to go toward their schooling," Burgess added.

McComb recommended checking on any offer with your school's enrollment or financial aid office.

She said she's not worried about falling victim herself. Instead, she's more concerned for all the new students.

"They don't know the process, they don't know what to do, they're already confused," McComb said. "It's a brilliant scheme."

Click here for more information on specific scams from the FTC.
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