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College Scholarship Dangers

March 5, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 4, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.


By Alan Bligh

There are millions and millions of dollars out there to help college-bound students. To assist the millions of students and parents who depend on annual grants and scholarships, many companies now sell information about financial aid availability and offer application services. BBB warns that in 2010 nearly 400 complaints were received nationwide from parents and students who were dissatisfied with services provided by scholarship and financial aid companies.

BBB reminds students and parents that free information on financial aid is available at www.fafsa.gov. Additionally, BBB advises that consumers look for the following red flags of scholarship and financial aid companies:

The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back. In reality, no one can guarantee they will get you a grant or scholarship because the decision is out of the company's hands. Refund guarantees also often contain complicated terms and conditions that make it difficult for consumers to get their money back.

You cannot get this information anywhere else. Scholarship information is widely available in books, from libraries and financial aid offices and on the Internet, if you are willing to search for it.

You have been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship. If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.

Your credit card or bank account number is required to hold this scholarship. Legitimate scholarship offers never require this information or payment of any kind.

The market for greener products and services has increased over recent years. If your business is looking to get a boost from your dedication to the environment, the Better Business Bureau recommends sticking to the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines for Environmental Marketing Claims to avoid exaggerating your company's impact.

BBB offers the following advice on promoting your business' greener side:

Tell the truth. Few things destroy a company's credibility with consumers faster than false advertising. When bragging about the shade of your green, as with any advertising or marketing claims, always tell the truth.

Make concrete claims. An honest advertiser will not make vague statements such as "environmentally friendly" or "sustainable" without qualification and solid examples to back up the claim. Making fuzzy claims can get you into trouble.

Provide evidence. Consider creative ways of quantifying your company's impact, such as: How many hours have your employees volunteered? Who has benefited and how have they benefited from your firm's efforts. How are your products better for the environment?

Get expert help. As a result of the green-frenzy that has taken over the country, many new boutique marketing and advertising firms are now specializing in branding companies as environmentally friendly and socially responsible. Getting outside PR help can be expensive. However, the rewards could be substantial in terms of revenue, reputation and goodwill. Make sure you check out such companies at www.bbb.org.

Alan Bligh is the executive director of the Better Business Bureau in Corpus Christi. Contact him by e-mail at abligh@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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