The 40 million Americans eager to shed their student debt are being targeted by scammers who are calling, texting and emailing people with fraudulent offers of help, law enforcement officials warn.
Criminals often adapt old scams to capitalize on current events, in this case making use of the Biden administration’s program to forgive as much as $20,000 in student debt per borrower.
“The FBI typically sees this behavior when any new government aid program becomes available,” Jeffrey Downey, special agent in charge at the agency’s field office in El Paso, Texas, said this week in a statement cautioning the public.
Fraudsters claiming they can guide folks through the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program use the scheme to get money for services they won’t provide or to gather personal information for other crimes, according to the FBI, which was joined by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office in sending out an alert.
The would-be fraudsters behind the calls may also claim to represent a bank or the U.S. Department of Education. They then typically ask for personal information to supposedly start the application process for loan forgiveness.
Scammers also email or text links from what appears to be an official government website, which then requests personal information such as a person’s name, Social Security Number and date of birth.
Important things to remember to avoid getting ripped off, officials say:
- Accessing or getting help with any federal student aid program through the Department of Education or its partners never requires any type of payment.
- Authorities also caution against providing Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID login information, saying the request is a scam and is used to cut off contact between the borrower and servicer, as well as to steal the person’s identity.
- Borrowers are being advised to know the risks before refinancing student loans, as those eligible for debt relief who take out private loans stand to lose out on what the government is offering, officials say.
Regulators already have their hands full with scams related to getting help with student debt. Criminals have long made use of actual, but difficult-to-navigate, government programs to con people into paying illegal fees or handing over personal information. The Federal Trade Commission in August said it was mailing more than $822,000 in refunds to borrowers tricked by one illegal debt-relief scheme.
People can apply for the one-time debt relief until Dec. 31, 2023, although for now a court order has currently blocked the Biden administration from forgiving loans.