Student loan debt is a bigger burden than ever, with more than 43 million people carrying outstanding federal student loans. While federal loan repayments have been paused again through August 31, consumers holding this debt are eager to find relief. And criminal scammers are eager to take advantage.
How It Works:
- You receive an unsolicited contact offering to help you navigate through state and federal programs to help reduce or restructure your debt.
- “Debt relief experts” may offer access to instant, easy-to-access loan forgiveness options, often connected to the COVID pandemic.
- These companies might ask for upfront payment or for personal information such as your Social Security number or your FSA ID (the username and password on your loan account).
What You Should Know:
- There’s nothing these companies can research for you that you can’t legitimately find for yourself, for free. Often it is as simple as contacting your loan servicer or the U.S. Department of Education.
- It is illegal for debt relief companies to collect payment from you before they get results, so upfront fees are a surefire sign of a scam.
- Legitimate agencies and loan servicing companies will not ask you for information such as your Social Security number or FSA ID.
What You Should Do
- Visit the Department of Education’s StudentAid.gov site for free information on getting help with federal student loans.
- Resist the urge to act quickly. Research any debt relief firm before providing them information or money, or signing any agreements. A good place to start is your state’s consumer protection office or the Better Business Bureau.
- Report suspected student loan fraud to the FTC and the Federal Student Aid Office.
When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this information with friends and family.
P.S. Are you active on social media? Do you enjoy sharing information that can help friends and family to spot and avoid scams? Become a volunteer AARP Fraud Watch Network (FWN) Digital Fraud Fighter! Interested? Send us a note at FWN@aarp.org for more information.
Knowledge gives you power over scams. The AARP Fraud Watch Network equips you with reliable, up-to-date insights and connects you to our free fraud helpline so you can better protect yourself and loved ones. We also advocate at the state, federal and local levels to enact policy changes that protect consumers and enforce laws.