Scholarships and financial aid do not require upfront fees. While there are legitimate companies who will help guide you through the financial aid and college application process for a fee, disreputable companies may ask you for money up-front and provide nothing in return. Red flags to watch out for include the following: A “money-back guarantee” to secure a scholarship. Don’t believe it. Unscrupulous companies attach conditions that make it impossible to get the refund. “Secret scholarships.” If a company claims to have inside knowledge of scholarship money, they’re lying. Information on scholarships is available freely to the public. Ask your librarian or school counselor. Telling students they’ve been selected as “finalists” for awards. If they ask for an up-front fee, head for the nearest exit. Asking for a student’s checking account to “confirm eligibility.” If they want bank account information or your credit card number to confirm or reserve a scholarship, it’s a scam. Quoting a relatively small “monthly” or “weekly” fee. Then asking for authorization to debit your checking account for an unspecified length of time. Ongoing fees are a sure sign of a scam. Unsolicited offers. Whether it’s an e-mail, phone call, or it arrived in your mailbox, if you didn’t request the information, ignore the offer. Learn more about education scams to avoid.