An Echo Press Editorial: Scammers are targeting graduates
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
It’s almost cap and gown time.
College students are about to take a big step in their lives – graduation.
But they should be wary of scams that could trip them up.
Scammers are taking advantage of recent changes to student loan repayment programs in order to confuse borrowers, tricking them into falling for a variety of schemes, according to the Better Business Bureau, which issued an alert about the scams last week.
Currently, payments are paused on virtually all federal student loans through Aug. 31, 2022, and no interest is accruing. But just because student loan repayment is on pause, doesn't mean that scams are, the bureau said.
Graduates should carefully research trustworthy sources related to federal repayment plans before giving any personal information.
Other tips from the bureau:
- Watch out for companies promising to reduce debt by lowering payments through enrollment in student loan forgiveness or other programs. They may also falsely promise to apply monthly payments to consumers’ student loans and to improve credit scores – all you have to do is pay a small fee so they can negotiate with the lender on your behalf. In another version, dishonest collectors claim they can save money by consolidating loans – if a minimal fee is paid. Keep all of your personal information private and never give it to an unsolicited source.
- Protect yourself from student loan scammers: Research the lender. Visit BBB.org to read business profiles and check out companies before working with them. The FTC has consumer education related to student loan debt relief scams at ftc.gov/StudentLoans .
- Empty promises lead to an empty wallet and more debt. Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Scammers often pretend to be affiliated with the government. Never pay a fee upfront for help. Never share sensitive information, such as your Federal Student Aid or FASA ID.
- Find a reliable source. Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost, and do not require a third party.
- Report it. If you have been a victim of a suspected scam, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker .
For more information, visit StudentAid.gov for federal student loan repayment options. Student loans can be forgiven only under specific circumstances, so contact your lender directly to see if any options are available to you.
The bureau’s final advice: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A company that claims it can erase student loan debt in minutes is not being honest. This type of scheme is similar to a government imposter scam, so watch for the warning signs.