- Regina Newman is Shelby County Trustee
Scammers are never one to miss an opportunity.
Within hours of President Biden’s announcement of the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program, people were being bombarded by scammers through a variety of means, including phone calls, emails, text messages and social media ads . The scripts used by the crooks are quite convincing at first sight. Some spoof phone numbers, add official-sounding service names to caller ID, and/or add logos and titles to texts, emails, and advertisements. They give the impression that the aid comes directly from the government.
This also happens in Shelby County
Many local citizens reported that the caller wanted their social security number supposedly to see if they were eligible, or wanted them to pay a fee to go to the leader. The calls that were reported to our partners at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) were from area codes 833 and 314, and the caller ID was saying “Student Loan Center” or “Education Department.”
Facts: You don’t need to pay anyone to enroll in the new program or for the extended break in payments, and no one can get you in early or guarantee your eligibility. The program is not even operational yet. The US Department of Education (DOE) will announce when borrowers can apply. The earliest will be October. While you wait for more information, beware of anyone trying to charge you for this debt relief. This means it’s a scam. A genuine government agency will NEVER charge an advanced processing fee.
The BBB has compiled a list of tips for avoiding student loan forgiveness scams:
- Find out about the terms of your student loan and the assistance program before you act. Always do your research before sharing personal information. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of your specific loan, as well as how student loan relief impacts you. Go directly to official government websites, such as ED.gov and studentaid.gov, for more information.
- Never pay money for a free government program. Scammers often trick victims into paying for free government programs – or they claim that you can get extra benefits, faster benefits, etc., for a fee. A real government agency will not ask for advanced processing fees. These are all red flags of a scam.
- Beware of cold calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods unless you give permission.
- Beware of bogus government agencies or programs. If you’re talking to someone claiming to be a government official offering you student loan relief, do some research before agreeing to anything. Scammers often create similar government websites that look like legitimate agencies or programs.
- Think something looks suspicious? Contact the agency directly. If you have any concerns about the legitimacy of a suspected government official, hang up the phone or stop emailing/texting. Then find official contact information (look at ED.gov and studentaid.gov or other official sites) and call to verify. Then, report suspicious calls or messages.
- Be careful, even if the information comes from a friend. Even if a close friend or family member you trust has sent you the information regarding student loan relief, first make sure the claims are real. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BBB has received numerous reports of hacked social media accounts being used to spread government impersonator scams.
Our goal with Wallet Warnings remains the same: to help you protect your money. If you have questions or need additional information on any topic covered here, please call (901) 222-0206. We are happy to help you avoid scams, frauds and predatory lenders.
Regina Newman is Shelby County Administrator.