CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning students and their parents to be cautious of potential scams when applying for scholarships.

“At this time of year, many high school seniors and their parents are beginning to evaluate colleges and how they will pay for them,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many scammers know this too and use this time to target families who are looking for help in covering tuition and housing costs.”

Morrisey issued this advice as part of his office’s second Back to School Consumer Protection Week.

He said a common scam that many people can fall victim to involves fraudulent scholarship websites and offers.

Through this scheme, a scammer will set up a website that offers to match students with potential scholarships for which he or she may be eligible. However, before the student can see the list of scholarships, they are asked to either pay an upfront fee or provide personal and financial information.

“While there are several reputable websites that provide students with information on how to apply and receive valuable scholarships, some sites exist only to scam applicants,” Morrisey said. “Receiving a scholarship is not only an honor, but a great benefit for your future education.

"Unfortunately, there are some people out there who try to take advantage of hardworking students or their parents.”

The Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips for those applying for and researching scholarships:

* Avoid scholarship websites that require personal information such as the applicant’s Social Security number.

* Be wary of websites that require users to pay a fee in order to search for and learn about scholarships, or charge a fee to help a student receive a scholarship. Stick to free scholarship search sites and applications.

* Research scholarships before applying. Talk to a guidance counselor, academic adviser, or the group that offers the scholarship before applying to verify that the scholarship offer is legitimate. Determine whether there are any specific terms or conditions that have to be met if you accept the scholarship.

“With increasing tuition and housing costs, it’s a good idea to pursue as many financial aid and scholarship options as possible,” Morrisey said. “However, we encourage parents and students to be careful and do their research before applying to make sure they don’t fall victim to scammers.”

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