When most college loan payments were scheduled to resume recently, scamsters jumped into the fray to take advantage of the confusion.
There are ways to spot what’s legit and what’s not. According to the Cybercrime Support Network, “with fall in full swing, fraudsters are taking to the internet to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers, with a few scams expected to rise this season.”
Here are some red flags that tell you to avoid certain college debt solicitations:
- Unsolicited communications – Be cautious of unsolicited emails, phone calls or text messages claiming to offer “special” or “exclusive” loan repayment programs. Legitimate loan servicers will not contact you out of the blue with offers that sound too good to be true. This is a general warning for most scams. Don’t reply to these messages.
- Upfront fees – Scammers may ask for upfront fees to enroll you in a loan repayment program. Legitimate loan servicers and government programs do not charge fees to enroll or participate in repayment options.
- Demands for immediate payment – Scammers might use high-pressure tactics, threatening consequences like legal action or wage garnishment if you don’t make immediate payments. Legitimate loan servicers will work with you to find a suitable repayment plan without resorting to aggressive tactics.
- Promises of loan forgiveness or discharge – Scammers may promise complete loan forgiveness or discharge, regardless of your eligibility or circumstances. Legitimate loan forgiveness programs usually have strict eligibility criteria, such as working in specific public service jobs or income-driven repayment plans over an extended period.
- Requests for personal information – Be cautious of anyone asking for your Social Security number, bank account details, FSA ID login information, or other sensitive information over the phone or through unsolicited emails. Legitimate loan servicers will already have your information and won’t ask for it out of the blue.
- Claims to be affiliated with the government – Scammers may falsely claim to represent government agencies or official loan forgiveness programs. Verify the legitimacy of the organization through official government websites or your loan servicer.
- Lack of clear documentation – Legitimate loan servicers will provide clear and detailed documentation about any repayment plan or loan modification. If the information you receive is vague or unclear, it could be a sign of a scam.
- Pressure to sign documents immediately – Scammers may pressure you to sign documents quickly, preventing you from reading the fine print or seeking advice from trusted sources.
- Requests to redirect payments – Be cautious if someone asks you to make loan payments to an alternative source or to “consolidate” your loans with a new company. Always make payments through the official channels designated by your loan servicer.
How do you know how a legitimate college loan repayment plan works? Contacting your loan servicer directly is the best first step. You can also find factual information from the U.S. Department of Education.
While most loans will need to be repaid — unless you qualify for loan forgiveness — you can often ease the burden of monthly repayments. Check the link above to explore your options. The bottom line is simple: If you get a message from anyone promising to wipe out your student debt, simply ignore it and move on.