Last week, I got a call on my cell phone. I didn’t recognize the number, but it was from my own area code; I had gotten several of these calls during the prior week or two, but I had not picked up, suspecting it could have been a robo-dialer. But this time, curiosity got the better of me, so I answered.
A pre-recorded message said the following to me: “You are being offered a lower monthly payment and loan forgiveness for your student loans. Due to our numerous attempts to reach you, this offer will be revoked if we don’t hear from you within 48 hours. If we don’t hear from you, you will no longer be eligible for these programs. Please press 2 to be connected to a customer service representative.”
I promptly hung up. This, folks, is a scam, and it’s the latest tactic being employed by predatory student loan “assistance” companies who are trying to prey on student loan borrowers desperate for a solution to their debt. And while I can easily spot these types of schemes as a student loan lawyer, for many other people it’s a lot tougher to discern a scam from a legitimate program.
If you’ve been contacted by a student loan assistance company and you’re not sure whether or not the company is legitimate, here are some things to consider:
- Did the company identify itself? If not, that’s a huge red flag. And if they did identify themselves, but the company is not your current loan servicing company, that’s another reason to be concerned.
- Are you being pressured to act quickly? With very rare exceptions, no student loan repayment or forgiveness program is so time-sensitive that you would be required to take action in a matter of hour or days. This is a pressure tactic.
- Did the “offer” of loan forgiveness or lower payments reference a “new” program or a “presidential” program (i.e., “Obama loan forgiveness” or “Trump loan forgiveness”)? That’s a scam.
Here are some more tips if you’ve been contacted by a company, and you’re not sure if it’s a scam:
- If you’re not sure who called you, call your loan servicer (not the company that called you), verify your loan status with them, and see if they have been trying to reach you.
- Do your own research on the company that contacted you – even if it’s just a simple Google search.
- Find out if the company has a website. If so, are there actual named individuals on the website with verifiable credentials?
And always be vigilant about the following:
- Never give anyone your FSA ID or your username/password for any of your student loan accounts. Even as an attorney, I never ask my clients to provide me with that.
- Never give anyone “power of attorney” over your student loan account, unless the person is actually your attorney and it is for a specific, defined purpose.
- Never sign any contract with a company for help with your student loans if you don’t fully understand the implications of what you are signing. Consider getting any such contract reviewed by someone else (such as a lawyer).