FAFSA.com Scam

“Is the FAFSA.com Scam real? I mean, what exactly is the FAFSA and do I have to complete it?”

Sound familiar?

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
  • 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!

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John Edwards

John Edwards

John Edwards is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is pursuing a journalism degree. Currently studying abroad in Rome, he can usually be found hanging out and studying at his fraternity. He also enjoys running and spending time with family and friends.
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11 Responses to “FAFSA.com Scam”

  • Mary Fallon on December 14, 2011

    Like preparing an income tax form, the federal student aid application is complicated for some. Others aren’t sure when they prepare their application if they have made a mistake – a mistake that could boot them out of the virtual line for aid. Other people may not have the time or interest in preparing this 130+ questionnaire that the current and past Secretaries of education have complained as being complex. Just like income taxes, the federal government offers two ways a student can prepare the form – either by themselves on the U.S. Dept. of Ed form OR by getting fee-based professional help from a legitimate aid application preparation service. While legitimate firms, such as Student Financial Aid Services http://www.fafsa.com don’t charge a submission fee, they do apply a modest cost (less than $100) to ensure a student’s aid application is correctly prepared so the student receives the most financial aid possible to help make a college education more affordable. To ensure you’re getting assistance from a legitimate firm, check their Web about policies for not gaming the system, assisting low income students without charge, and client comments as well as the Better Business Bureau rating. Accuracy is essential and top-notch aid application preparers run a computer check of the 450 ways to make an error and have a professional read every answer. Some preparers have experts who speak multiple language, a service that many parents of first-generation college students find helpful.

    Some college financial aid departments assist their students in applying for aid and some communities offer a one-day annual College Goal Sunday event that offers free services. But high school seniors can’t access aid experts at their colleges of choice because they haven’t been accepted. And with the average student-to-counselor ratio in the U.S. at 457:1, seniors and their families cannot expect counselors to prepare students’ aid applications. Fee-based professional aid application services can provide peace of mind to those who have little or no experience preparing the complex aid application.

    While some decry the form’s long question set, it is designed to equitably share this year’s $227 billion of student aid among more than 14 million college students. All those questions provide the facts that help colleges fairly share our nation’s aid – most of which is paid for by taxpayers.

    Years ago, everyone applying for college financial aid paid a submission fee. encourage everyone regardless of financial circumstances to apply for aid, the U.S. Congress shifted to all taxpayers the cost of checking for errors and sending the applications to students colleges of choice. In that political environment, the blank form was renamed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is somewhat like saying a blank income tax form is ‘free.’

    One last advantage top aid application preparers have is that they have access to the 2012-13 aid application in advance of the January 1, 2012 first day of the aid season. That means their clients can have their aid application accurately prepared with income estimates in advance and be submitted on day one to ‘save’ their place in the virtual line for aid. That means peace of mind that those students will receive the most need-based aid possible.

  • Amy Ready on February 11, 2012

    The comment below sounds like it was written by someone from fafsa.com. I made the mistake 2 years ago of going to this website instead of fafsa.gov. After spending 2 hours answering questions, I discover I owe $79.99 for this service. I was irritated, tired, and wanted to get this over with so I paid the money because they were supposed to rigorously check the answers for completeness, etc. Next day I have a report sent to me and it has many mistakes and blank lines that i go back and compare my entries. Not any mistakes on my end so i call customer service. I am eventually given to a higher level customer service person and here is what they tell me, “it doesn’t matter that the entries are incorrect or different because you won’t qualify for aid anyway” (they REALLY said this). They want to tell me how I can go on the fafsa.gov website and make corrections, no kidding. I point out that the government says it is a crime to lie on a fafsa because they can check it against a tax return and what exactly did I pay $80 for when it is obvious no one checked they answers for accuracy. Their answer is “we process so many…”(silence) At this point I laugh and say well I did not get $80 worth of anything and ask for a full refund. They argue with me for 20 minutes before they issue a refund. I would not recommend using this service.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on February 11, 2012

      Amy – Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Greg Smith on March 26, 2012

    I’ve filled out the fafsa numerous times when I qualified for financial aid and it was quite easy and straightforward. I currently cannot receive federal aid but I need to fill out the fafsa for my school anyway. I googled fafsa and clicked the top link which was fafsa.com. I didn’t even realize it wasn’t the official website until I had filled out all the forms and was asked to pay…then I realized what had happened and went to the real fafsa site. I would say this site is a scam and I would bet that most people paying for their “service” don’t know what they are doing.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on March 27, 2012

      Hi Greg – Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  • Christin Middleton on January 7, 2013

    VERY GOOD CALL AMY !! MARY FALLON IS INDEED FAFSA.COM INFACT IF YOU CLICK ON HER NAME IT WILL TAKE YOU TO FAFSA.COM AND YOU CAN FIND HER ON TWO OF THE TWO BLOGGS I HAVE READ ABOUT FAFSA.COM AS I HAVE ACCIDENTALLY PUT MY INFO INTO THE SITE AS WELL

  • Tom on January 23, 2013

    My daughter in her attempt to spread her wings also picked the .com site and started filling it out. When she got to end it was asking for money for the submission. Having done FASFA for my son for the past 5 years I knew that was fishy but, my wife said no we had. She had mistaken something else and realized later her mistake. In the interim a sales person from the .com site called. I answered the phone and they asked for my daughter. They told her she needed to hurry because money was running out then offered to lower the price to $71. Now having dealt with super high pressure cars salesmen my antenna went buzzing like a run away chain saw. So I grabbed the paper work we had from past applications on my son and called the .gov folks. They then explained to me what was up. I immediately went to the site and tried to wipe out of the personal info. Since I could not move from one level to the next with empty qustions, I chose to bogus info all through the form. Now I don’t know if the bogus information would override the original but, it is my hope. Since we were not willing at the time of the first call to give out credit card info they were forced to call back a day later. At that time I told them we could not afford it and asked that my daughter’s application be removed. Whether they do or not I cannot say. But I have their info as it is readily available on the internet and if I suddenly get problems with identity theft, they are the most likely suspect as all other avenues it could happen have been well protected.

    The important fact here especially for parents is that they are not above using high pressure sales tactics to scare students into paying for what can be done for free. It is this one thing that has me still questioning the integrity of the company. Sure they have supposedly not scammed anyone so far nor used the info for identity theft but in this present economy some people are hurting greatly and may not be as honorable. Having access to the info and a multitude of ways to get it out of the building they could easily go home and start raiding peoples finances setting up bogus accounts and running them up to the limit. We will call this a lesson learned and remember to be more careful in the future.

    • Sherry on March 16, 2013

      I mistakenly went to a non-government FAFSA web site and at the end it asked for my credit card which I thought was strange because I had never had to pay in past years with my other son. However, as I was in a hurry to get it done and I thought maybe the government had started to charge for the service, I put it in. Then on my credit card statement, I see a charge for $88 from a company called I-Filings. I called to see what the charge was for which is when I discovered this was a company who had basically charged me $88 for submitting my FAFSA. They did not contact me to discuss or ask questions, they just submitted what I had put in. I have argued with them, my credit card company and the FAFSA.gov site for 2 days and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. I know that it is said not to be a scam. However, it is so easy for citizens to type in .com instead of .gov and find themselves having to pay $88 for something what should be FREE. This should not be allowed by our government! I am sure the .com FAFSA sites make a ton of money off unsuspecting citizens every year. This to me is nothing but a SCAM! It should not be legal!

      • TheCollegeHelper

        TheCollegeHelper on March 16, 2013

        Thanks Sherry for sharing your experience!

      • Dorie Lawrence on March 27, 2013

        Same thing just happened to me. I can’t afford a mistake like this, how can a company do this with any kind of conscious?

        • TheCollegeHelper

          TheCollegeHelper on March 27, 2013

          I’m sorry to hear that Dorie. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

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