How to Avoid Student Loan Forgiveness Scams
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- Student loan forgiveness scams attempt to steal personal info and money from students with debt.
- Loan scammers may use phone calls, texts, and emails to solicit information.
- You can take steps to protect yourself and report suspicious activity.
With lots of talk about improved loan forgiveness services under the Biden administration, scammers are taking advantage of the situation. These days they're calling, texting, and emailing about fake loan forgiveness programs to try to steal your personal information and, ultimately, your money.
In light of the moratorium on student loan payments ending soon, many people are thinking about repaying, consolidating, or deferring their debt. Keep reading to learn what to look for when dealing with scammers and how to keep yourself — and your money — safe.
What Is Loan Forgiveness?
Loan forgiveness occurs when your lender cancels the remainder of your debt after you meet certain requirements. Within loans administered by the U.S. Department of Education, popular programs include public service loan forgiveness, teacher loan forgiveness, and Perkins loan cancellation and discharge.
Students who take out private loans are far less likely to have their loans forgiven. Requirements to qualify for loan forgiveness vary by program, so review eligibility information carefully.
What Is Debt Consolidation?
Debt consolidation occurs when you combine multiple student loans into one, resulting in one monthly payment rather than multiple. Debt consolidation can help you access additional forgiveness and repayment plans, making it a worthwhile consideration.
That said, simplifying multiple loans into one can also mean losing out on specific benefits or terms associated with individual loans.
Before consolidating debt, speak with your lenders or a neutral, unbiased financial expert who can help you weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.
How to Spot a Student Loan Forgiveness Scam
Scammers use a variety of tactics to lure you into providing sensitive information, and they're always updating their approach when an exposé uncovers their methods. These people typically rely on phone calls, voicemails, emails, and text messages to reach people.
A common sign that a loan forgiveness program is not legitimate is being asked to provide an upfront fee or make a monthly payment in exchange for forgiveness. Being asked to provide sensitive information, such as your password, is another red flag.
Finally, watch out if you're told you must act immediately to secure forgiveness — scammers often use pressure and urgency in their tactics.
3 Tips to Prevent Student Loan Forgiveness Scams
If you have student loan debt, you can take steps to protect yourself from scammers and ensure you don't get duped by one of their schemes.
For starters, using only official resources such as the Federal Student Aid office rather than third-party solicitors can go a long way. Check out three more tips below.
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1. Block Unwanted Calls and Messages
If you get a call or text from an unknown number that leaves a message about loan forgiveness programs, block that number so it cannot call you again. Scammers often have many numbers at their disposal, but making a habit of blocking them can help ensure you receive fewer calls and messages.
If you do answer one of these calls, be sure to ask for a clear and direct answer on who the caller works for and how they got your information. This can help you confirm the caller is a scam artist.
Still, be careful even if they're able to provide a satisfactory answer. That's just a starting place for verifying that they're trustworthy.
2. Do Not Provide Personal Information
No matter how convincing the person on the phone seems, don't give them personal information if they called you (rather than you reaching out directly to a government office). Scammers routinely use personal information such as your middle name, family names, and address to answer security questions and hack into financial accounts.
No legitimate loan forgiveness professional would call you and ask for this information, so treat it as a clear sign of nefarious activity.
3. Create Secure Passwords
Scammers understand the thought process behind many people's passwords, and they can guess them when the passwords aren't secure enough. Using any part of your name, the name of a partner or family member, or the names of your pets is not advised. You should also avoid using any part of your birthday or Social Security number.
Never give your passwords out to anyone — especially not to a stranger over the phone. You can also use a site like LastPass to store your passwords securely.
How to Report Student Loan Scams
In the event that you do get scammed, it's important to report the fraud and, if necessary, file a claim to recoup stolen money. Some of the steps students can take to report student loan forgiveness scams include the following:
- Call your loan provider and let them know what happened.
- Submit a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office of the U.S. Department of Education.
- Submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Let your bank know. You can often file a claim asking the bank to reimburse you for the fraudulent charges or any money that was stolen from your account.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute professional financial advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Readers of this website should contact a professional advisor before making decisions about financial issues.
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