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Scam calls are selling student loan forgiveness. Don’t fall for it.

Scam calls are selling student loan forgiveness. Don't fall for it.

FINANCIAL NEWS

Scam calls are selling student loan forgiveness. Don’t fall for it.

COVID-19 scams: Here are common scams and ways to avoid themIn a time where people are financially unstable, it’s no surprise that the scammers are out in full force.Buzz60The calls come regularly to people with a student loan, and even those without them: An unknown person is offering aid paying back loans – or outright forgiveness.The callers talk about the relevant issues: “public student loans” or the federal freeze on loan payments. And lately, borrowers report on social media, the calls seem to come a lot more frequently. But they’re almost always a scam, especially when the caller starts asking for money. “Loan forgiveness is extremely rare,” said Kristen Evans, the section chief for students and young consumers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The reality is discharging federal student loans usually requires more than the unexpected kindness of strangers. And the complicated rules around debt forgiveness can provide cover for scammers looking to con people who are already struggling financially and unaware of their options. Chatter about the nation’s $1.7 trillion student loan portfolio has never been more mainstream, thanks to the pandemic-era suspension of federal student loan payments and interest, which is set to expire before February. Progressive lawmakers have clamored for President Joe Biden to cancel more student loan debt for all borrowers. His Education Department instead is offering relief for targeted populations, such as people with disabilities or former students of colleges that closed. In all, Biden’s administration has forgiven about $9.5 billion for more than half a million borrowers, but that means millions of Americans still must figure out how to pay their debts.Which gives scammers plenty of options.Been getting calls 2-3 times per day left on my phone from the federal student loan forgiveness scam company — “We’re show you’re still eligible for federal student loan forgiveness blah blah blah!”… my student loans were paid off last year— Steve Garbacz (@SteveGKPC) August 26, 2021Tracking the operators of these scams is difficult, which can make it hard to say if there have been more or less calls related to student loans scams in recent weeks, Evans said. Pitches related to student loans already accounted for some of the largest robocall campaigns, according to a North Carolina State University study of calls from February to December 2019.What is certain is that the callers at least skim the news. The CFPB has expressly warned borrowers to be wary of pitches that mention “Biden Loan Forgiveness.” This program doesn’t exist, but it invokes headlines borrowers might have seen. Biden’s plans for higher education had included a plan to forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt. And lawmakers just last month bickered over which branch of the government has the legal authority to discharge debt. Marketers that sprinkle the news in their pitches create a “flavor of truth,” said Betsy Mayotte, the founder of the Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a non-profit that offers free financial advice to student loan borrowers.I paid my #studentloans off a year ago. In the last 3 hours I’ve received TWO scam calls that went right to voicemail about qualifying for scammy student loan programs and an application for loan forgiveness I hadn’t completed. pic.twitter.com/RhGRAy7iYN— Analiese Eicher (@analieseeicher) August 30, 2021That may also be the case with Public Service Loan Forgiveness. It’s a government program that allows borrowers who work in select jobs to discharge eligible debt after 120 payments – about 10 years of payments. But obtaining forgiveness via this program can be a long and complicated slog. Of the roughly 168,000 people who applied from November to April, only 2% qualified for relief, according to data from the federal government. The Education Department is currently soliciting feedback from borrowers about how to improve that program. And borrower advocacy groups like the Student Borrower Protection Center have been pushing the Biden administration to simplify the process while encouraging borrowers to share their experiences.Some robocallers have mentioned Public Service Loan Forgiveness in their pitches recently. A USA TODAY reporter received a message recently that mentioned “public student loans” and a prequalification for “the student loan forgiveness program.” (The message was incorrect: Journalism jobs are largely ineligible for debt forgiveness via public service.)“Having someone call you and say, ‘Hey, we can get this for you,’” Mayotte said, “gives them a little more credibility and feeds into the anxieties of the student debt consumer.”Part of the appeal of the telemarketers, she said, is they may seem to be an unbiased party to borrowers. Borrowers want advice, Mayotte said, from someone with “no financial interest in their life.” And such help allows borrowers to stay anonymous, which can be appealing for those who otherwise might be embarrassed to seek help.How you can avoid getting scammed So what should people do to avoid these scams? Remain cautious about any deal that seems too good to be true, Evans said. That includes promises of immediate student loan forgiveness or guarantees to remove debts from your credit report.Another red flag is any organization that charges for help. Many of the services offered by these callers, such as loan consolidation or enrollment into a plan based on a person’s salary, are offered for free by the federal government. Plans that require an upfront fee or continuing monthly payments should raise alarms, Mayotte said. You can also contact your loan servicer if you’re unsure about the status of your loans, Evans said. And if you’re unsure who your servicer is, check with the federal government.Scammers may also use emails to target borrowers with logos and email addresses that bear similarity to official government communications. So double-check the email address of the sender. Official government messages will come from addresses ending in a “.gov.” Finally, Evans encouraged borrowers to report these types of calls either to the Federal Trade Commission or your local attorney general’s office. Doing so allows the government to better track where the calls are coming from.


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