Stein: Keep an eye out for student loan scams | Education
The pandemic disrupted all or part of three academic years for students. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of confusion about COVID-19 student loan policies and the possibility of debt forgiveness. During this stressful time for student loan borrowers, criminals are using your confusion and stress to try and trick you into falling for student loan scams.
Below are some tips for avoiding common scams that can take your money and jeopardize your school future.
First, always be skeptical. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it almost always is. Be extremely wary of anyone who promises total loan cancellation or guarantees quick loan cancellation. Most loan cancellation programs are conditional on a certain repayment amount or a certain number of years of work in your chosen field, and you should speak directly with your loan officer to understand your options.
Also, beware of people who charge you upfront fees to help you pay off your student loans. Under North Carolina law, it is illegal for anyone to charge an upfront fee to change borrowers’ debts. You don’t have to pay anyone to receive student debt relief assistance. Instead, go to the US Department of Education’s website, www.studentaid.gov, for information on how to contact your service agent to modify your loans.
If you receive an email or phone call about student loan debt cancellation, do not provide any personal information. Your loan officer and education department will not ask you for personal information over the phone or email. If you’ve received an email, make sure it’s sent from an address ending in “.gov” or from an email address you know is your loan officer. If you have any doubts, contact your loan manager directly.
A scammer may also try to pressure you into thinking you need to act fast, otherwise you will no longer be eligible for a reduced payment or loan modification. Legitimate businesses do not use these urgent and aggressive techniques.
Think very carefully before using a debt relief company. Almost all student loan debt relief companies keep your money as a fee, instead of making your payments. In almost all situations, you can modify your loans yourself by contacting your loan manager or the education department.
Also, never give your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA ID) password to anyone. This is private information that neither the education department nor your loan officer will request. If you are asked for your FSA ID password, it is probably a scam – do not share it.
If you think you have been a victim of these scams, log in and change your FSA ID. Immediately contact your student loan manager to inform them and find out the status of your loan. Contact your bank or credit card company to suspend all payments to the student loan debt relief company. And contact my office at ncdoj.gov/complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM to file a complaint. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and alert them that you have been scammed.
Your education is an important investment that can help prepare you for future success and a great career. Think carefully about how you manage your student loans. You can start by visiting ncdoj.gov/payingforcollege for useful information. I will do everything in my power to hold debt relief scammers accountable so that you can invest safely in your educational future.
Josh Stein is Attorney General of North Carolina.