College students, take note! If keeping up with your coursework, acing your exams and scrambling to hand in every term paper before the deadline weren’t enough, you now have something else to worry about: Student loan scams are on the rise. Scammers know you hate owing tens of thousands of dollars, so they’re quick to offer you an easy — but completely bogus — way to free yourself from that debt. Or, they might falsely claim you owe the feds taxes on your debt. If you’re already stressed about your student loans, that makes you an easy target.
Don’t get scammed! All it takes is a lack of knowledge and a small blunder to be out thousands of dollars.
Here’s what you need to know about the three most popular student loan scams.
1.) Student loan forgiveness scam
In this scam, a student loan debt company will reach out to you and offer to completely forgive your student loan for a relatively small fee.
Your student loan, gone? Sounds like a dream! Unfortunately, it’s more like a nightmare. No student loan company would completely forgive your loan, even for a fee. The company is likely bogus and you’ve been targeted for a scam.
This scam attempts authenticity by sounding like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a legitimate federal government program for public servants with federal student loans. They may even claim to be connected to the U.S. Department of Education, but that is also false. If you fall for the scam, you’ll still need to pay off your loan, plus you’ll lose the money you just shelled out.
If you’re looking for student loan debt relief for your federal student loan, consider enrolling in a no-cost student loan repayment plan through the federal government. This plan might offer student loan forgiveness after 20-25 years. Unfortunately, there is no other way for a student loan to be dismissed.
2.) Student loan consolidation scam
In a scenario similar to the above scam, a student loan company will contact you promising to consolidate your loan and lower your monthly payments, all for a modest fee.
Right off the bat, you can peg this as a scam. While many institutions can refinance student loan debt, the federal government is the only entity with the power to consolidate it. And they won’t charge a fee for this service.
If you’re looking to consolidate your student loans, check out Studentloans.gov or call 1-800-557-7394.
3.) Student loan tax scam
Those tax scammers will try everything to hook a victim! In this con, a scammer will spoof the IRS’s toll-free number and call a college student, claiming they owe thousands of dollars for a “federal student loan tax.” The scammer will demand immediate payment upon threat of arrest or a lawsuit. They’ll also claim to only accept specific forms of payment, like a wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
If you’re on the receiving end of a phone call like this and you’re starting to panic, here’s a newsflash for you: the “federal student loan tax” does not exist. It is nothing more than a not-so-clever trick dreamed up by a crooked scammer.
Also, the IRS will never reach out to you by phone without first notifying you via snail mail. Nor will they demand payment over the phone or insist on a specific payment method – especially a prepaid gift card.
If you’re targeted
If you’re targeted by a student loan scam, it’s crucial that you don’t engage with the scammer. Hang up as soon as you recognize a scam and delete any suspicious emails about your student loan that land in your inbox.
It’s equally important for you to bring the scam to the attention of the authorities to help them capture those scammers. You can file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov, alert the local law enforcement agencies, and report any tax-related scams to the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or at IRS.gov. Finally, be sure to warn your friends about a circulating scam so they know to be super-careful.
Practicing caution and knowing what to expect will protect you from scammers who are out to make a buck off anyone they can bamboozle. You work hard in school; you deserve to keep your money and your sanity, too!
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a student loan scam? Share the pointers you picked up from your experience with us in the comments.