Updated on 4/6/2022
The pause on federal student loan payments and interest has now been extended through August 31, 2022. Throughout the moratorium (and even before), scammers have preyed on borrowers who have taken a financial hit due to the pandemic or are hoping for student loan forgiveness. How can you be sure you’re getting accurate information? Here are some ways to safeguard your finances and personal information to avoid becoming a victim of student loan scams.
“Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”
Whether you are contacted about your student loans by phone or email, always verify the information you receive. Hover (don’t click) over an email link to see where it is actually taking you. Many times the URL is full of gibberish or takes you to a site with a different name than the sender of the email indicates – a definite red flag for a scam. If you receive a phone call about your loan, inform the caller you will need to call them back and take down their information. Then go directly to your lender’s website or a recent loan statement to verify the phone number/web address – does it match? Do not provide information to a number other than the one listed by your lender!
Federal Student Aid (FSA) also has recently implemented a single phone number where you can access your federal student loan information: 1-800-4-FED-AID.
Note: Any private student loans you hold will be accessed separately through your lender’s website(s).
The federal government has begun making changes to servicers for its loans, and scammers count on confusion from consumers. About 16 million borrowers were/will be affected by these changes. You can learn more about what to expect if your federal student loan is transferred from the Federal Student Aid (FSA) website.
Pay attention to any official communication you receive regarding servicer changes, and reference information from these trusted sources:
- The U.S. Department of Education: https://studentaid.gov/
- Your lender/servicer’s website – find information on a recent statement, or for federal loans, visit https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers
- Your college’s financial aid office
Student Loan Forgiveness
While there has been a lot of discussion in recent years about student loan forgiveness, the fact is not much has come to fruition. More than $11 billion in federal student loans has recently been forgiven, but that is only 1% of the total federal student loan debt. This forgiveness has been for very specific groups:
- Borrowers who attended now-defunct schools that took part in deceptive or illegal practices
- Borrowers with total and permanent disabilities
- Certain public servants who benefit from changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program
The U.S. Department of Education offers a few student loan forgiveness and cancellation programs. If you are contacted with a message about qualifying for student loan forgiveness, remember – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can always verify student loan forgiveness information directly through the Federal Student Aid site or your servicer.
Again, keep in mind that the majority of these situations apply to federal student loans, not private student loans.
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