“Is the FAFSA.com Scam real? I mean, what exactly is the FAFSA and do I have to complete it?”
It’s almost January, so by now you’ve probably heard your school counselors, teachers or parents mention something about a FAFSA.
No, the FAFSA.com scam is not real, but before we get into that, let’s spend some time discussing the FAFSA form itself…
So, what is the FAFSA?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This is the form you’ll need to complete in order to apply for federal student aid.
Federal student aid consists of federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. The FAFSA is also commonly used to award state and college financial aid, as well as private financial aid.
How long do I have to complete the FAFSA form?
The official deadline for this year’s FAFSA is midnight on June 30, 2012, but students are encouraged to complete their FAFSA form as soon as possible after January 1, 2012.
Last year’s application consisted of at least 130 questions — it can vary based on your financial situation — so you should allot yourself plenty of time to complete the application in case you do have a problem with it.
How do I complete the FAFSA?
You can complete the FAFSA form 2 ways:
Option 1) Submit the Paper FAFSA by mail, which can be processed in 7-10 business days
Option 2) Submit the FAFSA on the Web (FAFSA.ed.gov), which can be processed in 3-5 business days
If you choose to process your FAFSA online (FAFSA.ed.gov), you can eliminate the delays that tend to occur when completing the paper version.
In addition, the online version of the FAFSA significantly reduces the number of errors on your application because it will edit your application for you before you are allowed to submit it.
Now, let’s address the FAFSA.com Scam accusations…
When attempting to complete the FAFSA application on their own, I’m guessing that a lot of students mistakenly go to websites like FAFSA.com or other places on the internet that have the word “FAFSA” in their website name. This is probably how the FAFSA.com scam accusations came about…
If you are trying to complete the FAFSA form on your own, and you do not wish to pay a company to assist you with it, then you must go to the official government FAFSA site:
It makes sense to naturally type in “FAFSA.com,” and mistakenly assume that you’re on the government’s official FAFSA site. I’m sure that mistakes like this by students and their parents brought about allegations of a “FAFSA.com scam”…
Is the FAFSA.com Scam Real?
No, the FAFSA.com scam is not real.
FAFSA.com is run by Student Financial Aid Services Inc. The company does provide a legitimate service — advising students and parents on how to fill out their FAFSA.
So again, the FAFSA.com scam is not real…However, they do charge a $79.99 submission fee for their most basic “Express FAFSA” package.
If you don’t feel comfortable filling out the FAFSA form on your own, can’t find any other outside free resources to assist you with the financial aid process, and have an extra $80 to spare, then the services provided by FAFSA.com might be a good option for you.
The company also offers other FAFSA packages available to students that cost up to $299.99.
While there is no such thing as a FAFSA.com scam, you should know that you do not have to spend money to complete the FAFSA form.
FAFSA.com acknowledges this fact at the bottom of their home page. The website specifically states,
“The FAFSA can be filed for free, without professional assistance at www.fafsa.ed.gov.”
Additionally, to dispel any other FAFSA.com scam rumors, their website also provides a disclaimer at the bottom of their home page denying any association with the Department of Education. This additional disclaimer states,
“Please note that this site is not affiliated with the Department of Education. FAFSA.com and Student Financial Aid Services, Inc. provide student financial aid advisory, consultation and preparation services.”
Before you decide to use their services, be sure to read all of the fine print so that you don’t become another disgruntled student who claims that the FAFSA.com scam is real.
Completing the FAFSA on Your Own
Now that we’ve got the FAFSA.com scam rumors out of the way, here are some tips for completing the FAFSA on your own (if you desire to do so).
- Tip #1 – Gather Documents
Be sure to have your Federal Income Tax Return and W-2 from the previous year, as well as a current bank statement and investment information. All of the documents that you need are listed on the official FAFSA website, CLICK HERE to get access to this list.
- Tip #2 – Use Online Version
Also, if you are filling out your FAFSA form online, explanations are available to assist you with answering all of the questions. So it’s probably a good idea to use the online version, as opposed to the paper version.
- Tip #3 – Live Chat Available
According to the official FAFSA website (FAFSA.ed.gov), you can also “chat live online with a customer service representative if you need personal assistance.”
And, again, these services are FREE!
Getting help with your FAFSA Form
Problems rarely occur when completing your FAFSA. Some students report that it has taken them as little as 30 minutes to complete the entire application.
However, if something should come up where you do need additional help filling out your FAFSA, you can turn to other FREE services for help.
Here are some FREE resources that can help you with your FAFSA:
- FAFSA Guide eBook — They walk you through the FAFSA, related tax forms, and give you tips and suggestions for maximizing the aid you’re eligible for
- College Goal Sunday – A program of the YMCA
- TuitionCoach Lite — They provide free financial aid webinars
- Your High School — Your high school guidance counselor, new college advisor or your college’s financial aid department can help you. It’s their job.
- Your Parents — They have all the information you need
What if I already accidentally used FAFSA.com
First of all, remain calm – we’ve already established that there is no such thing as a FAFSA.com scam. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions.
There are wild claims online that accuses FAFSA.com of identity theft and not even having a customer service line. These aren’t true!
Student Financial Aid Services Inc. has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau. They commonly compare themselves to TurboTax or H&R Block, both of which help you fill out your taxes (which you can also do on your own for free).
There are no reported cases of identity theft from using FAFSA.com. They do have a hotline (1-866-514-8938).
Best case scenario: You immediately recognize your mistake, you call the hotline, and you keep a representative on the phone until you get your money back.
Worst case scenario: You’re out 80 bucks, you inform your friends, and you move on with your life.
What makes FAFSA.com seem like the official FAFSA site?
The obvious answer is that they have “FAFSA” in their name. Most people probably just type in FAFSA.com without thinking when they go to fill out their FAFSA.
Also, FAFSA.com, and websites like it, tell visitors that they could be missing out on “$199 billion in available financial aid” because they don’t have the planning expertise and insider knowledge provided by their website.
Remember that FAFSA.com is just a business trying to get you to use their service. They aren’t scammers (unless you can consider all businesses to be a scam), they are legit.
However, even though they are a legitimate business, you do not have to use them.
Take some time to absorb all of the information that has been provided here and make the best decision for you based on your individual circumstances.
Also, be sure to share this information with your friends, so that they don’t get confused and claim that the FAFSA.com scam is real!