ELFI customer service will be closed on Saturday, July 4 in observance of Independence Day. Our offices will reopen on Sunday, July 5.
X
×
TAGS
Student Loans

Avoiding Identity Theft: Student Loans Edition

November 11, 2019

Identity theft seems like something that will never happen to you, that is, until it does. And when it hits, it can cause a lot of trouble—impacting your bank accounts, credit report, taking out loans and requiring a lot of time and effort to correct. When a thief has access to your personal information, there’s no limit to the havoc they can wreak. While charges on credit cards and unauthorized bank account withdrawals are more commonly associated with identity theft, student loan fraud can happen as well. 

 

Most people know to take necessary precautions, like shredding important documents and having facial ID or passcode set on their phone, but it seems like these steps are never enough. Identity thieves can get to your information through data breaches, stolen mail, stolen wallets, email scams, and even though your internet connection. Without altogether avoiding technology or living in a vault, how cautious do you need to be? Very cautious, as it turns out.

 

Let’s look at how to avoid identity theft, then what to do if the theft involves unauthorized student loans. 

Avoiding Student Loan Identity Theft 

Use Safe Internet Connections

When you Cyber Monday shop in a cafe or buy Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet, you put yourself at risk for identity theft. Public Wi-Fi connections are full of fellow internet surfers, and they don’t all have good intentions. Though convenient, public Wi-Fi may not have the proper security and encryption measures in place. When a fraudster gains access to your personal information via public Wi-Fi, it’s known as a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. Once they’ve gained access, thieves can spy on your internet behavior and steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. 

 

Needless to say, it’s best to avoid anything on a public network that requires you to log into accounts or make purchases. This includes applying for colleges and student loans. Be sure you’re always working from a safe, trusted internet connection and make sure your device or computer has the latest software installed.

 

Don’t Keep Your Social Security Card in Your Wallet

At some point, you’ll likely be asked to share your Social Security number at the doctor’s office, your bank, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or even your job. And because of that, it’s tempting to keep your Social Security card in your purse or wallet for easy access, but doing so can open the door to identity theft. 

 

When your SSN lives next to your credit cards and driver’s license, you give thieves everything they need to steal your identity. Instead, keep your Social Security card with other important documents in a personal safe at your house or in a rented safe deposit box at a bank or credit union. Read more about when you should and shouldn’t give out your Social Security number.

 

Be Weary About Who You Share Information With

When applying for student loans, work directly through fafsa.gov for federal loans or through reputable financial institutions for private loans. How can you tell if a site is reputable? You should be able to easily find contact information on their website and speak to a real person when you call. Reputable websites also work through encrypted connections, helping reduce the risk of identity theft by sending your data across the internet with additional layers of protection. You can tell if a website is encrypted by its web address: “HTTP” sites are not encrypted while “HTTPS” sites are. 

 

If you do find that your identity has been used to take out unauthorized student loans, the below tips can help you get back on track.

 

Recovering from Student Loan Identity Theft

If you received a call or letter from a loan servicer warning that your account is past due, despite not having a student loan with that institution, you might be the victim of identity theft. Student loan identity theft might also be discovered during a routine credit check or by a credit monitoring service. Regardless of how you find out, once you do, here’s who to contact:

  • Contact the lenders that opened the accounts. Their fraud departments can freeze the accounts to prevent any further damage. 
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to complete an Identity Theft Report. This report will provide a detailed recovery plan and layout the appropriate steps. It will also pre-fill forms and letters you’ll need, saving you precious time. 
  • Contact the police and file a police report. A police report may be needed to help clear things up with lenders, credit agencies or the Department of Education.
  • Contact the school where the fraudulent account was opened, notify them of your incident and ask for a letter stating that the account is closed.
  • Contact the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®) and have them place a free fraud alert on your credit report. Doing so lets each one know to take extra precaution before approving new lines of credit. You may also consider a credit freeze, which prevents any new lines of credit from opening until you have it lifted. 

 

Keep An Eye On Things

If you haven’t signed up for a credit monitoring service, now is the time. The big three reporting agencies offer these services, as do third-party platforms like Credit Karma®. You can set up alerts to be notified of any new activity tied to your personal information. If you don’t want to sign up for a service, at least do your due diligence by checking your credit frequently. You can get your credit report at no cost every 12 months from each of the main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Request your report at AnnualCreditReport.com.

 

Remember, fraudsters will stop at nothing to access your personal information, and they’re good at what they do! It’s troublesome to have any aspect of life tampered with, but especially so when it comes to student loan identity theft. It pays to know ways to help protect yourself, and if the unfortunate does happen, how to begin the rebuilding process.

 


 

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2020-07-02
Should You Keep Paying Federal Student Loans During CARES Act Suspensions?

You probably already know that the CARES Act has suspended Federal student loan payments for the time being. Until September 30th, you aren’t required to make payments, and the interest rate of your loans is set to 0%. This is primarily to help those with student loans who are struggling during these uncertain times. If your student loans are in forbearance due to the CARES Act suspensions, you have several repayment options based on your financial goals.

 

Option 1: Take Advantage of That 0% Interest

Normally, when making extra payments on student loans, your money is first attributed to any collections charges or late fees, then to accrued interest, then to the principal itself.

 

With the current 0% interest rates, however, if your account doesn’t have any fees or charges, you’ll save some money at that step. The more you can reduce your principal balance, the more money you’ll save over time in interest.

 

For example, let’s say you have $25,000 in student loans at a 4% interest rate and you want to pay it off in the next 10 years. Over that period, you accrue $5,373.54 in interest. However, if you take advantage of the CARES Act 0% interest, you can change the course of your repayment.

 

For instance, if you continue to pay your student loans during this period, the payments will be attributed straight to principal and will save you about $300 in accrued interest over the course of your repayment.

 

Option 2: Wait Until September And Resume Payments

If the coronavirus has affected your finances, don’t worry about paying down your student loans too quickly. Instead, use this time to get your other debts under control. Focus on paying back higher interest rate debt, like credit card debt, which will impact your long-term financial health.

 

Option 3: Refinance and Take Advantage of Low Interest Rates

During this time, many student loan refinancing companies are offering low interest rates. If you’re locked into an unfavorable rate, this would be a great time to consider refinancing student loans to save on interest costs.

 

This is an especially great option for borrowers with private loans, as these types of loans aren’t currently receiving any type of federal forbearance benefit. For a personalized look at how refinancing could improve your financial health, check out the ELFI Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.*

 

So, should you keep paying federal student loans during the CARES Act suspensions? The answer depends on your unique goals. Whether you choose to pay your federal loans, take care of other expenses, or refinance your student loans, this is a great opportunity to eliminate some additional debt before the September 30 deadline. Happy saving!

 
 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
2020-06-26
Looking Back on How COVID-19 Has Impacted Student Loans

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s life in one way or another. For many Americans, this included their student loans. Whether you are unable to make payments or benefiting from a lower interest rate, it can be confusing to know how all of the ways the pandemic may be affecting your situation.    By Caroline Farhat   The impact on student loans is different depending on whether you have federal or private student loans. If you do not know what type of loans you have, you can log in to your account on the StudentAid.gov site that will show you any federal loans you have borrowed. If you think you have any private loans, be sure to request your free credit report to see the information on them.  

COVID-19 Impact on Federal Student Loans

On March 27, 2020,
the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. The CARES Act impacts most federal student loans, but not all. Perkins Loans and FFELP loans that are not owned by the U.S. Department of Education are not included in the benefits provided by the Act. Most federal student loans are covered. Here’s how the CARES Act affects all other federal student loans:   

Administrative Forbearance

The covered student loans were automatically placed on administrative forbearance from March 13, 2020, through September 30, 2020. This means no payments are required during that period and no action was required to receive this benefit. If you decide to make payments during this time the amount will go towards the principal of the loan after the interest accrued as of March 13 is paid. Any payments made after March 13 through September 30 can be requested for a refund.    

Interest Rate

The interest rate on the covered federal loans is temporarily set at 0% from March 13 through September 30. You do not have to do anything to receive the reduced interest rate. This reduced interest rate is beneficial because your loans will not be increasing during the paused period.    

Student Loan Forgiveness

The non-payments during the March 13 to September 30 timeframe count towards payments made for student loan forgiveness. This is especially beneficial if you are in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As long as you are employed at a qualifying employer, you do not have to make any payments during the period and the months will still qualify towards your required number of payments. 
  • For example: if you have 48 payments remaining until you are eligible for loan forgiveness under the PSLF and you do not make any payments from March 13 to September 30, your required number of payments until forgiveness will be reduced to 42 payments.
 

Collection on Defaulted Loans

If you currently have federal defaulted student loans, the collection on those loans is paused from March 13 through September 30, 2020. You should not receive letters or phone calls regarding the collection of these debts. In addition, your tax refund, social security benefits and wages cannot be garnished during this time. However, keep in mind after this paused period, collections will resume on your defaulted loan.  

Rehabilitating Defaulted Loan

If you are in a rehabilitation agreement for your defaulted loan, the suspended payments will count toward your rehabilitation during the suspended payments period.  

Employer Educational Assistance Programs

The CARES Act allows employers to contribute up to $5,250 per year towards an employee’s student loans tax-free through December 31, 2020. This is a savings for the employee who can have extra money paid on their student loans with no taxes owed on the money. This provision of the Act allows employers to use student loan assistance as a benefit to offer to employees, while not having to pay payroll taxes on the money. Corporations looking to add this benefit for their employees can find out more information here.  

COVID-19 Impact on Private Student Loans

Private student loans are not covered by the CARES Act, however, you may still be eligible for some relief if you have been financially impacted by COVID-19.  

Lender Relief Measures

Many lenders are providing relief measures, such as forbearance, in which you will not be required to make payments for a certain period. Every lender is different so be sure to check with your provider if you need any assistance.  

State Relief

Some states’ attorney general offices have made agreements with private student loan lenders to provide relief to borrowers impacted by the pandemic. As of this writing, nine states plus Washington D.C. have made agreements with lenders. Some of the benefits in the agreements may include:
  • 90 days forbearance, which means no payments would be due 
  • Waiver of late fees 
  • No negative reporting to credit bureaus 
If you do not live in a state that is helping to provide relief, refinancing your student loans may be a great option for you. Refinancing can reduce your monthly payment to make it more affordable for you. Refinancing allows you to borrow a new loan to pay off your old student loan. The new loan can save you money by having a lower interest rate or obtaining a new loan with a longer term length to lower the payments, but extend the number of months you have to pay. Check out our Student Loan Refinance Calculator to see how much you may be able to save.*     During this unprecedented time, it’s helpful to have some relief from student loan payments if you are unable to make them. Explore all your options to see what works best for your financial situation.   
  *Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.   Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
student loan news
2020-06-18
This Week in Student Loans: June 18, 2020

Please note: Education Loan Finance does not endorse or take positions on any political matters that are mentioned. Our weekly summary is for informational purposes only and is solely intended to bring relevant news to our readers.

  This week in student loans:
photo saying legislation

NAACP And 60 Other Groups Call On Congress To Cancel Student Debt

After the federal government has provided student loan relief to all federal student loan borrowers through the CARES Act, a coalition of over 60 organizations including the NAACP, American Federation of Teachers, and the National Consumer Law Center are now calling Congress to cancel student loan debt altogether in their next stimulus package.  

Source: Forbes

 

low rates on federal student loans

Student Loans: 3 Ways To Get A Lower Interest Rate

This Forbes article lays out the three ways to get a lower interest rate on your student loans, covering options such as refinancing, borrowing a new student loan, or even switching to a variable rate loan.  

Source: Forbes

 

question mark

How to Pay Off Student Loans When You’re Broke

With many individuals struggling to pay off their student loans due to lack or income or overwhelming expenses, this Fox Business article lays out options for paying down student debt when faced with difficult financial circumstances.  

Source: Fox Business

 

student debt in america

How Student Loans Became a $1.6 Trillion Problem

With the cost of college increasing almost 25% in the past decade and total student loan debt reaching $1.6 trillion, this CNBC video offers a historical view of the path the U.S. took to arrive at this state.  

Source: CNBC

    That wraps things up for this week! Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or LinkedIn for more news about student loans, refinancing, and achieving financial freedom.  
 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.