Playing on financially desperate Americans during the pandemic, scammers are up to their usual tricks to try to get your money.
If you are one of those saddled with student loan expenses, you could be one of their targets. Many have found themselves suddenly out of work as the economy has been adversely affected by COVID-19.
The Federal Government’s economic stimulus plan known as the CARES Act contains provisions that suspend payments and accrual of interest on federal student loans through Sept. 30.
Also, Navient, a company with over 10 million student loan clients recently settled a loan forgiveness lawsuit. This all adds up to a potentially target-rich environment for scammers who are experts at exploiting headlines to their own advantage.
Your Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers the following advice to help student loan customers avoid victimization by crooks.
Get the facts about CARES Act student loan help
The federal relief package included provisions for most federal student loan borrowers. Private loan borrowers were not covered, but most of these lenders are offering benefits to their customers. Those include things like short-term emergency deferment or waiving of late fees.
To find out more about relief package items that may affect your federal student loan, visit studentaid.gov, the Federal Student Aid website.
The Navient scam
The main strategy of scammers seems to be trying to play off of the Navient settlement: A caller claiming to be from Navient says your student debt is partially or completely forgiven.
You’re asked to confirm personal information and to pay a “transfer fee” to move the Navient balance to an official sounding federal department such as “the Department of Education.” The caller is a scammer.
The caller requests credit card information to set up payments for the “service.” It’s a rip-off. You’ll soon notice that your Navient payments continue to be required in addition to the “new company’s” payment.
Navient does not make phone calls of this type offering to transfer your loan. The scammer is trying to get your personal information and your money.
How to stay beyond a scammer’s reach
These tips can keep you safe from student loan scammers:
Never believe unsolicited callers’ stories. Legitimate businesses and government agencies do not call you without your permission.
Never give out personal information to callers you do not know, “great deal” or not.
Exercise your power to hang up. Be skeptical. Ask them for a call back number and then do your research about them.
Look up any company at bbb.org to find out if others have had problems with them and to see their BBB Business Profile.
Find out how the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program works by asking your lender, such as Navient (at Navient.com), about forgiveness programs. The government contracts with FedLoans to determine eligibility.
Ignore any robocall about student loan forgiveness.
Never agree to pay a fee to a company in order to enroll you in some sort of benefit that they claim will reduce your student loan debt.
For answers to other questions you may have regarding your student loan forgiveness or reduction, contact BBB at (800) 856-2417 or visit bbb.org.