As the US Department of Education begins implementing student loan forgiveness, many borrowers may be targeted by malicious actors with an agenda. The relief program extends the ongoing student loan payment freeze until Dec. 31, canceling up to $20,000 in federal student loan debts for Pell Grant recipients. Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission began issuing more than $822,000 worth of checks to borrowers who lost money in a debt-relief scam from a group called Student Advocates. The FTC advised the nearly 15,000 check recipients to reach out to the FTC for verification if needed.
In addition, the FTC issued recommendations to assist individuals in avoiding student loan forgiveness scams:
- Beware of fast loan forgiveness promises. They’re a common tactic of scammers who target people most in need of debt relief, and most likely to want a fast outcome.
- Is the person contacting you presenting themselves as a government representative? Scammers can fake a government seal and sometimes even a government email address. It’s unlikely you’ll be contacted directly by a government representative with promises of a fast turnaround on debt relief, so if you have federal loans, you should go directly to StudentAid.gov.
- Watch out for anyone who wants money up front. Neither the FTC nor any other government agency will ask for money before assisting you with student debt relief efforts.
- Don’t give out your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Because your FSA ID is considered a legal signature by the US Department of Education for use in all its online systems, no one except you — not even your parents, loan representative or school officials — should have access to that number. If someone asks you for it, report them to the FTC by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).
Unfortunately, wherever there is a government relief program, there are almost always scammers seeking to exploit it. It is important for borrowers to keep in mind that any government programs that offer student loan debt relief through the Department of Education or FTC are always offered free of charge — and no third-party company is distributing relief funds in partnership with them at this time. If someone claiming to be with a private student loan servicer contacts an individual, the individual should collect their name and contact number, then hang up and call their loan servicer directly to verify the caller’s authenticity. The loan servicer is indicated clearly on individual student loan correspondence.