How to avoid student loan scams

Getting a college degree can be one of the biggest financial decisions you make. Scammers know that and may use it to trick you. But with some basic know-how, you can learn to spot a scam.

It’s no secret that getting a college education is expensive. And for many of us, paying for that degree involves a mix of loans, scholarships, and grants, which can require completing a mountain of paperwork involving your financial information.

The process of applying for and managing financial aid and loans can be confusing, emotional, and downright overwhelming – which unfortunately creates prime conditions for scammers to take advantage.  But if you keep an eye out for some of the common tactics scammers tend to use, you can protect yourself from being a victim of a student loan scam.

With the recent news about the federal government forgiving up to $20,000 of federal student loan balances, a whole lot of people are eager to see their student loan debt drastically reduced – or, in some cases, even wiped out completely.

But scammers are paying attention to this news too, and they aren’t passing up the opportunity to use it to trick consumers out of their money and financial information. A scammer may call, email or text you, posing as someone from the Department of Education or another organization, offering assistance with the intent of tricking you out of money or your private information. 

Possible signs of a student loan scam

Here are some signs to watch for that could be a clue that someone’s trying to scam you:

  • You receive communications from fake (but official-sounding) sources, asking for payment or personal information. Scammers may call, text or email you, posing as a representative of the U.S. Department of Education or other official-sounding agency or organization. When in doubt, do not give your personal information to anyone who contacts you via phone, email or text. Instead, reach out to your student loan servicer through a known phone number or website.
  • The communication puts pressure on you to respond immediately. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency, telling you that you need to give them information immediately, or that you need to act right away.
  • Beware of offers to help in exchange for a fee. Scammers may offer to help you “jump to the front of the line” with student loan forgiveness or give you some other benefits in exchange for a fee. Consider this a red flag.

Because the student loan forgiveness program announced by the White House  in August 2022 is so new and some details aren’t available yet, it can be hard to decipher what’s real and what’s a scam. But if you need some help, the Federal Student Aid website is a great place to go for official information. You may also want to reach out to your loan servicer. They’ll have the most up to date information on what you need to know about your federal student loan.

What to do if you think you’re being scammed

If you get a student loan related call, text or email that seems suspicious, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Education, or your state’s attorney general’s office.

You may also want to reach out to your loan servicer to verify whether the communication you received was legitimate or not. If you’re not sure who your federal student loan servicer is, you can find out through the Federal Student Aid office.

And if you think your personal information has been compromised or your identity has been stolen, read up on some important steps to take right away.

 

Read more tips and tricks to help you avoid becoming a victim of scams and fraud. 

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