I have written often about phony student loan debt relief companies and with good reason. More than forty-two million Americans have student loans with an outstanding balance of more than 1.4 trillion dollars so it is no surprise that scammers are focusing their attention on these students and former students through scams that falsely promise to provide debt relief. The CARES Act which provided for stimulus checks to be sent to millions of Americans also provided debt relief for students who had federal student loans held by the Department of Education. Specifically, until December 31, 2020, loan payments the law provided for collections to be halted for defaulted loans and a 0% interest was set for a period of 60 days. It is important to note that you do not have to pay anything to get the 0% interest rate for 60 days or any of the other relief provided for in the CARES Act. Unfortunately, scammers are contacting students and charging them a fee for helping them obtain these benefits during the pandemic. None of these companies are affilaited with or endorsed by the Department of Education. For more information on CARES Act student loan benefits go to https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus
In October of 2017 the Federal Trade Commission, working with the Attorneys General of eleven states, launched what it cleverly calls, Operation Game of Loans to jointly target these various student loan scams. Some scammers promise dramatic reductions of debt of 50% or more in return for upfront fees of between $500 and $2,500. Often these scam companies have names that make it appear that they are endorsed by the federal government in order to trick people into trusting them. Another student loan scam involves promises related to consolidating student loans. Often the scammers represent that they are associated with the U.S. Department of Education although the Department of Education does not associate with private lenders in regard to student loan consolidation. These scammers also charge significant fees for their student loan consolidation services when the truth is that there is no fee for legitimate student loan consolidation. It is also important to remember that consolidating your student loans does not lower your interest or monthly payment. Instead, after loan consolidation the student’s monthly payment is equal to a weighted average of the interest rates on the student’s current loans.
The old adage still is true. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Many of these student loan debt relief scammers promise quick loan forgiveness, which is unrealistic. In addition, you should never pay any upfront fees for student loan debt relief assistance. Those fees are illegal and are a sure indication that you are being scammed. Also, remember my motto, “trust me, you can’t trust anyone.” Don’t trust scammers merely because they use names that sound like they are affiliated with the government. You also should never share your FSA ID with anyone.
For information you can trust about federal student loan repayment option, go to https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans . There you can learn about loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and loan forgiveness programs and there is never an application fee. If you owe private student loans, contact your loan servicer directly. You can also look into student loan refinancing rather than consolidating the loans. Refinancing student loans can result in a lower interest rate. For more information about student loans go to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/1028-student-loans Here is a link to a calculator that can help you determine whether you will save more by consolidating or refinancing student loans.https://www.makelemonade.co/calculators/student-loan-consolidation-refinancing-calculator/
Here also is a link to an FTC video that explains student loan scams and what you can do to protect yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TjSI4Q6ztQ
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