Take of the Week: Student Loan Scams
By BECKY RUTHERFORD
Whether you love or hate the idea of Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, be aware of incoming student loan forgiveness-themed scams. Scammers are already starting to associate phishing and phone/text scams with this.
Plans released by the government for the forgiveness scheme have been vague, with borrowers being asked to sign up for email alerts, and that signup will be available in early October.
That left some borrowers, whose repayments are expected to continue into January, in a panic.
Scammers love uncertainty and confusion!
What types of scams should you watch out for?
- If you search for “student loan forgiveness” through Google or other search engines, you might see fake advertisements. According to a July report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), up to 12% of these ads are fake. The only site you should go to for information on the forgiveness program is http://studentaid.gov/debtrelief or other official United States Department of Education sites.
- Phishing messages about canceling a student loan may start popping up in your inbox, if they haven’t already. Borrowers have been told to wait for an email notification when they need to enroll in the program, making them vulnerable to these phishing emails.
Here is an example of a phishing email spotted by Trend Micro:
The email survey above is fake, designed to obtain personal information and/or money. Note grammatical errors, informal language, and the lack of a personalized greeting, all of which are red flags that may lead you to a phishing email.
3. Phone/text student loan scams are also on the rise. You might get a text or call from a company claiming they can help you sign up for student loan forgiveness…usually for a fee. They may also try to lure you in by claiming that you qualify for “immediate” loan forgiveness, but only if you “act now.” The federal government won’t text or call you, and it certainly won’t use private companies to run the loan forgiveness program.
What are some other clues that something might be a scam?
- If a company tells you that you have to pay an upfront fee, it’s a scam. There are no fees associated with the Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
- If someone promises immediate or accelerated action, it’s a scam. Everyone will follow the same process to apply for forgiveness, throughout the official student loans website, http://studentaid.gov/debtrelieF
- If a company tells you that you “must act now” or that you’re missing out, or that they’re otherwise aggressive, that’s a sure sign of a scam.
- If a company asks for private information or your Federal Student Aid (FSA) number, it’s a scam, never give that information to a company claiming to be affiliated with the Loan Forgiveness Program. Your FSA number acts as your legal signature, so never give it to anyone.
There are genuine private student loan debt relief companies that provide loan servicing services for a fee. These services are often compared to tax preparation companies and can be useful if your loan is complicated for other reasons. But the government wants you to know that there’s nothing a company can do that you can’t do yourself for free when it comes to the student loan forgiveness program.
No company can speed up the process or give you an advantage. If you have signed up to receive email updates about the program, you will receive an email notifying you of enrollment availability. There is no real rush as all borrowers have until December 31, 2023 to apply for the forgiveness.
To sign up for email updates, go here: https://www.ed.gov/subscriptions and sign up for “NEW!! Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates” It really is the best way to stay up to date on the program.
In short, as with other current events, expect to see an increase in student loan forgiveness scams, via email, calls and texts. No one will call or text you, if you have signed up for email updates, you will receive a reminder email when student loan forgiveness registration opens. The email will come from the US Department of Education. Stay safe and be aware of scams out there.