Catch Of The Week: Student Loan Scams

By BECKY RUTHERFORD
Los Alamos

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 theme phishing and phone/text scams to this topic.

Plans released by the government for the forgiveness program have been vague, with borrowers instructed to sign up for email alerts, and that enrollment will be available in early October. 

This has left some borrowers, with repayments set to continue in January, in a panic. 

Scammers love uncertainty and confusion! 

What kinds of scams should you be watching out for?

  1. If you are searching for “student loan forgiveness” via Google or other search engines, you might see fake ads. According to a July report from TTP (Tech Transparency Project) up to 12 percent of these ads are fake. The only site you should go to for information about the forgiveness program is http://studentaid.gov/debtrelief or other official US Dept. of Education sites.
  2. Phishing messages themed to student loan forgiveness may start appearing in your inbox, if they aren’t already. Borrowers were told to wait for an email notification when they need to sign up for the program, so this leaves them vulnerable to these phishing emails.

Here’s an example phishing email spotted by Trend Micro:

The above email survey is fake, designed to obtain personal information and/or money. Note the grammatical errors, informal language, and no personalized greeting, all red flags you may be dealing with 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 you qualify for “immediate” loan forgiveness, but only if you “act now”. The federal government will not text or call you, and they definitely will not be using private companies to handle the loan forgiveness program.

What are some other clues that something might be a scam?

  1. If  a company tells you you need to pay an upfront fee, it’s a scam. There are no fees associated with the student loan forgiveness program.
  2. If anyone is promising immediate, or fast track action, it’s a scam. Everyone will go thru the same process to apply for the forgiveness, all thru the official student loan website,  http://studentaid.gov/debtrelief
  3. If a company tells you that you “need to act now” or miss out, or is otherwise aggressive, this is a sure sign of a scam.
  4. If a company requests private information or your Federal Student Aid (FSA) number, it’s a scam, never give this information out to any company representing themselves to be affiliated with the loan forgiveness program. Your FSA number acts as your legal signature, so never give it out to anyone.

There are actual private student loan debt relief companies that provide loan management services for a fee. These services are often compared to tax preparation companies, and may be useful if your loan is complicated for other reasons. But the government wants you to know there is nothing a company can do that you can’t do on your own for free when it comes to the student loan forgiveness program.

No company can make the process faster or offer you an advantage, if you signed up for email updates on the program you will get an email letting you know when signup is available. There is no real urgency given that all borrowers have until Dec. 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” That is really the best way to stay updated on the program.

In short, as with other current events, expect to see a surge in student loan forgiveness scams, via email, calls and texts. Nobody will call you or text you, if you signed up for email updates you will get a reminder email when student loan forgiveness enrollment opens. The email will come from the US Dept. of Education. Stay safe, and be aware of the scams that are out there.

LOS ALAMOS

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