Student loan payments are stressful enough, but throw fraudulent companies and scammers into the mix, and it creates a whole new problem. As we un-pause the stall of student loan repayments, here are some tips on how to spot student loan scams:
They want money for free services
Commercial financial aid advice services can cost well over $1,000. Of course, simply charging for help or information that’s available for free elsewhere is not fraudulent. However, if a company doesn’t deliver what it promises, it’s scamming you.
If you’re unsure whether to pay a company for help finding financial aid, stop and think for a minute: What’s being offered? Is the service going to be worth your money? Do the claims seem too good to be true?
Receiving help on your FAFSA form and repayment options is also a cost-free service provided by the lk (ED). Any company requesting funds in exchange for this service is a scam. You don’t have to pay for help with the FAFSA form. If you are asked for your credit card information while filling out the FAFSA form online, you are not at the official government site. Remember, the FAFSA site address has .gov in it!
They use these phrases
Borrowers have reported receiving phone calls, emails, letters and/or texts offering them relief from their federal student loans or warning them that student loan forgiveness programs would end soon. Usually, the so-called student loan debt relief companies offering these types of services don’t offer any relief at all. Often, they’re just fraudsters who are after your money.
Here are some examples of the false claims made in these communications:
- “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 serve.”
- “Student alert: Your student loan is flagged for forgiveness pending verification. Call now!”
Communications using this type of aggressive advertising to lure borrowers are NOT coming from ED or its partners.
They require you to pay up-front or monthly fees for help
If a company requires a fee before they actually do anything, that’s a huge red flag—especially if they try to get your credit card number or bank account information. In some cases, they may even step in and ask you to pay them directly, promising to pay your servicer each month when your bill comes due. Free assistance is available through your federal loan servicer.
They promise immediate and total loan forgiveness or cancellation
No one can promise immediate and total loan forgiveness or cancellation. Most government forgiveness programs require many years of qualifying payments and/or employment in certain fields before your loans can be forgiven. Also, student loan debt relief companies do not have the ability to negotiate with your federal loan servicer for a “special deal” under the federal student loan program. Payment levels under income-driven payment plans are set by federal law.
They ask for your FSA ID username and password
ED or its partners will never ask you for your FSA ID password. Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Do not give your FSA ID password to anyone or allow anyone to create an FSA ID for you. If a company has access to your FSA ID information, they can make changes to your account without your permission.
They ask you to sign and submit a third-party authorization form or a power of attorney
These are written agreements giving the third party legal permission to talk directly to your federal loan servicer and make decisions on your behalf. Debt relief companies often want these authorizations so that they can change your account and contact information, so you don’t realize that they aren’t actually paying your monthly student loan bill.
They claim their offer is limited and encourage you to act immediately
Student loan debt relief companies often try to instill a sense of urgency by citing ‘new laws’ or discontinuing programs as a way to encourage borrowers to contact them immediately. While there are some deadlines you need to meet regarding your student loans—for instance, if you’re paying under an income-driven repayment plan, you need to recertify annually—our programs are limited only by the eligibility requirements.
Their communications contain spelling and grammatical errors
While many of the communications sent out by these companies look very formal (for example, fold-and-tear letters with safety patterns), they often contain spelling and grammatical errors. If you notice unusual capitalization, improper grammar or incomplete sentences in the communication you receive, that’s likely a red flag that the company is not affiliated with ED.
Looking for student scholarships? Check out this list on DiversityComm.net/scholarships