CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urges college-bound students to not overlook the word “free” as they prepare to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a necessary part of qualifying for financial assistance.
The Attorney General reminds students and parents that FAFSA administrators do not charge a fee associated with the student’s application. That means anyone considering the use of a fee-based entity should carefully review the benefits and services offered, including data security.
“The financial aid process can be time consuming and stressful,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Scammers recognize that and often look for such opportunities to lure consumers into handing over their personal, identifiable information. Their methods and schemes may appear legitimate. That forces consumers to be all the more vigilant.”
The FAFSA application period opened Oct. 1. Students should file their application as soon as possible for state, college and scholarship programs that award aid on a first-come, first-served basis.
Applicants choosing to work with a third-party entity should verify the validity of any recipient to avoid compromising sensitive information
such as Social Security or Federal Student Aid identification numbers and other personally identifiable data. This will guard against scammers who may use a fake seal and other tools to pose as a government official.
For instance, the FSA ID gives students access to online services and can serve as a legal signature.
West Virginia students have until spring 2020 to apply for state aid. Specifically, the Promise Scholarship deadline expires March 1, and the state’s Higher Education Grant Program deadline expires April 15.
Every student, even those who think they may not qualify for federal grants, should apply. Many colleges and states use FAFSA forms to award other grants and scholarships.
Consumers with questions about a potential financial aid scam can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.