Deep Bench: Recruitment scams target high school athletes

(WZAW) -- We all know the competition to play at the college level can be fierce and many student athletes long to be considered for a spot on the team.

Lisa Schiller, from the Better Business Bureau joined the Deep Bench on Friday to explain how these scams work.

"As high school athletic season gets underway, scammers look for unsuspecting and vulnerable athletes and their families who are trying to navigate opportunities to play their sport in college," Schller said.

Scholarships, notoriety, emotions and the dream of competing at their favorite school are a few of the reasons cited as the catalysts for making poor decisions on opportunities bated by scammers. All will promise to help you with securing an athletic scholarship. Sadly, they will convince you they have access to people, processes, and information that you don’t, for a fee.

According to the NCAA, of the nearly 8 million students currently participating in high school athletics in the United States, only 495,000 of them will compete at NCAA schools. Gaining an edge on the competition is very enticing to athletes and their families. Unfortunately, because many are star-gazed with possibilities, promises of elite representation and schools of choice, scammers con students and families out of thousands of dollars annually. Many take the money and run, without providing such services. Others do very little for you, while taking your payments.

Here is some advice to avoid becoming a recruitment scam victim:

- Do your homework before hiring recruiting agencies. While some may be legitimate, be sure to ask for references.

- Check bbb.org for additional information on Athletic Organizations or Recruitment Services.

- Know current scams - Use BBB’s ScamTracker to learn of the latest athletic recruiting scam trends and read local reports of specific incidents.

- Know your representative. Who will you contact if you have questions? Will you be able to call them? How often?

- Get it in writing. Before any money is exchanged, know the terms of the recruiting agreement. What is included in the fee for service, specifically? Will they build a professional-looking profile and/or video for college submission and who will do the submission? How often can the information be updated? Who will interact with college coaches? How long are the services provided? What is the cancellation policy?

- Never pay recruiting service fees with cash or gift cards.

Remember, no one person has the ability to guarantee a student-athlete will receive a scholarship and in fact be recruited. Other important recruitment factors such as skill level, grades, character, and reputation are items no service can alter. While knowing the process to apply and navigating the system can be daunting, you can achieve this without a service.

Helpful information can be found at NCAA.org. However, if you are short on time to educate yourself, consider the costs. It may be worth it to hire a reputable and trustworthy agency.