Beware of These Student Loan Repayment Scams
September 12, 2019
Video Source: Federal Trade Commission
By Chris Jackson
Assistant Vice President of Retail Services
The cost of college education is daunting enough.
But if you’re one of the 45 million Americans who are trying to pay off your college loans, you could also be a target for student loan scams disguised as “loan forgiveness programs.”
“Recently, there has been an increase of Internet ads promoting student loan forgiveness or a dramatic reduction in student loan rates or payments,” says Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “Frankly, we have to remind individuals that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, legitimate options are available and it is important that students and families know where to find reliable information.”
The most important thing to remember is this: When it comes to your student loans, there is absolutely nothing that a so-called “student debt relief company” can do for you, that you can’t do yourself for free. In this article, we’ll break down how to detect and avoid suspicious loan forgiveness offers:
Examples of Student Loan Scams
The U.S. Department of Education recently highlighted some examples of false claims that have been made by student loan scammers:
- “Act immediately to qualify for student loan forgiveness before the program is discontinued.”
- “You are now eligible to receive benefits from a recent law that has passed regarding federal student loans, including total forgiveness in some circumstances. Federal student loan programs may change. Please call within 30 days of receiving this notice.”
- “Your student loans may qualify for complete discharge. Enrollments are first come, first served.”
- “Student alerts: Your student loan is flagged for forgiveness pending verification. Call now!”
A few warning signs, in particular, should raise your suspicions about false loan rescue offers:
- Direct solicitations: It’s best to ignore offers received out of the blue through email, snail mail, by text message or by phone.
- Advance payment: Any company that requires an advance payment for loan forgiveness services is one you shouldn’t trust.
- Guarantees: If an offer includes a guarantee that your loan will be forgiven, especially if it offers immediate forgiveness, it is likely a scam.
- Claims to act immediately: Often times, student loan scams create a false sense of urgency by citing “new laws” or programs that will be ending soon.
- Requests for your FSA ID: You should never give out your federal student aid ID or allow a company to create one on your behalf. Your FSA ID has the same legal status as a written signature, so anyone with your ID information could make changes to your account without your permission.
Are All Student Loan Forgiveness Calls a Scam?
In a short answer, yes. Because when it comes to your federal student loans, you should never need to pay a third-party company to receive assistance. Many unethical companies will charge fees to enroll you in federal programs that were free in the first place.
While there is certainly a difference between an illegal scam and simply paying for something you don’t need, many so-called “debt relief” agencies additionally mislead people by wrongly claiming to work with the Department of Education, falsely promising to forgive loans and violating telemarketing and communications laws.
To combat these scams, the Federal Trade Commission has even launched a nationwide initiative called “Operation Game of Loans” to file criminal complaints against companies who break the law. Sadly, people still fall victim to these scams every day.
How to Avoid a Student Loan Scam
- Never pay a fee up front for help that you could otherwise get for free.
- Don’t share your Federal Student Aid ID with anyone.
- Don’t respond to out-of-the-blue solicitations for student debt relief.
- Register for free with the National Do Not Call Registry, which was created by the FTC to block unwanted sales calls to you phone. To register, go to donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register. (If you continue to get unwanted calls, odds are they are from scammers and spammers).
Where Can I Get Real Help With My Student Loans?
- For free assistance with federal student loans, visit StudentAid.gov/repay.
- For help with private loans, contact your loan company directly. You can find the company's contact information on your original credit agreement or promissory note (these are documents you should always keep); or you can contact your college’s financial aid office to help you track down this data.
How to Report a Student Loan Scam
If you believe you have witnessed a student loan forgiveness scam, you should file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and report the scam to your state attorney general. Meanwhile, if you believe you have fallen victim to a student loan scam:
- Contact your bank or credit card company immediately to stop payments on the charges.
- Monitor your financial accounts closely and report any suspicious activity to your bank.
- If you gave out your FSA ID, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243 and report that your ID has been misused.
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