Scholarships Without Scruples: 3 Signs of Bogus Scholarships and Scams

In 2019 Operation Varsity Blues shed light on organized admissions fraud in the United States. Although that scandal focused on the American context, the problem of counterfeit credentials, fake degrees, and other kinds of academic fraud is a global issue.

My colleague, Jamie Carmichael, from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada), and I have begun some systematic inquiry into these topics. Among them, the issue of scholarship scams has come up repeatedly. We wanted to share some telltale signs of bogus scholarships we have found as part of our work.

Signs of a Scholarship Scam

#1 Credit card required

Legitimate scholarships do not require students, parents, or anyone else to submit credit card information as part of an application. If an application requires you to include this information, it might not be a legitimate scholarship at all.

#2 Discount in disguise

We have found an increasing number of so-called scholarships offered by businesses that are merely a discount for their services. In order to receive the alleged scholarship, students must purchase products or services (e.g., editing of academic work) in order to be eligible for the funds (a.k.a. discount).

Legitimate scholarships do not require students to pay for goods or services in order to receive the funding.

#3 Tax Trickery

In many countries, including Canada, legitimate scholarships and bursaries fall under different tax regulations than earned income. Canadian citizens and permanent residents can find out more on the Canada Revenue Agency website. If the organization awarding the so-called scholarship cannot or will not issue you tax documentation that follows federal taxation requirements, it is likely not a scholarship at all.

Scholarships without scruples: 3 signs of scholarship scams

We are finding increasing evidence of aggressive marketing from organizations promoting various kinds of scholarship scams. This includes sending direct e-mails to students, professors, and university administrators proclaiming how their “opportunity” (i.e., scam) benefits students.

If you are unsure about whether a funding offering might be legitimate or not, consult with an academic advisor at your school.

If you are a faculty member or administrator, ensure that you have checked the credibility of any organization asking you to promote alleged scholarships on their behalf.

The old adage applies: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Want to learn more about admissions fraud, fake degrees, fraudulent credentials and scholarship scams? Join Jamie Carmichael and me for our upcoming webinar, “Degrees of Deceit” scheduled for 11 September 2020.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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