Published: Aug 06, 2014 6:10 PM EDT

A college education can be pricey.

The average undergrad full-time tuition and fees for Florida's state schools is more than $6,100. Private or technical schools can double or even triple that, but if you think college financial aid is only going to deserving students...think again.

Some scam artists have figured out a way to steal money that should be in the pockets of students who need it.

"They were using and stealing identities or wrongfully using identities of others to make applications for financial aid at various universities," said William Zemblidge, US postal inspector.

Postal inspectors are talking about con artists who figured out a way to defraud the college financial aid system.

"By doing that, you're receiving financial aid or grants that are given to you and ultimately the monies would come into a location or an address that was controlled by the suspects or the people involved in the ring," said Zemblidge.

The problem is growing nationwide.

In 2013, more than 12 million US college students applied for federal aid for the school year starting last fall. More than 126,000 applications were flagged by schools and the government as potential scammers, according to Wall Street Journal.

Another problem is the students who apply for this money who have no intention of attending school. Between 2007 and 2010, the amount of Pell Grant money given out "improperly" jumped from $400 million to around $1 billion. Officials say Pell Grants are an easy target for scammers because the aid does not get repaid like a loan and requires no credit check. Once the money is paid out, the student can basically do with it what they want with it.

"If you do this, if you decide the misuse student aid funds, if you decide to misuse these funds by misusing the US Mail, you are committing mail fraud and we will investigate you vigorously and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Zemblidge.

The Scholarship Fraud Prevention Act created a fraud awareness partnership between the US Department of Education and the Federal Trade Commission. For more information about scholarship scams or to report a scam, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP.