Student Loan Scams: Voicemail EditionOctober 29, 2019
Robocalls. They’ve become so common and irritating that we rarely answer our phones if we don’t recognize the number. The voice messages these scammers leave range from humorous to threatening – from the “local police” waiting to take you into custody, to a stranger offering cash for your home.
A recent string of messages hits particularly close to home for the 45 million U.S. borrowers who owe $1.5 trillion in student loans. These calls claim changes to federal student loans or advertise offers of forgiveness of student loan debt. Some people who find these messages in their voicemail don’t even have student loans. But for the 45 million Americans who do, the offers can be a little too tempting. Student loan debt is a burden that we want to find a way out of and sometimes, what sounds to be too good to be true is in fact that. So much so, that we’re willing to put on earmuffs when it comes to a quick way out.
These scammers are after social security numbers, credit card numbers, federal student aid IDs, or for a victim to contribute money to a loan assistance program that (surprise, surprise) has no intention of helping you with your student loans. A reputable company will never ask for any of these things over a voicemail or on the phone.
So how are borrowers supposed to know what offers to be wary of? Let’s run down a list of common tactics for student loan voicemail scams.
Student Loan Scam Tactic #1: They Offer to Abolish Your Student Loans
This tactic is just what it sounds like: fraudsters offering to completely do away with your student loan debt. The scam is tricky because there are federal loan forgiveness programs that pay the balance of your loan under certain circumstances, like if you join the military or qualify and meet the requirements of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. We’ve outlined how the PSLF program works in a previous blog post.
The offer from the scammer usually sounds something like, “we’ll release your student loans for a nominal, upfront fee.” The red flag is the advance payment – something legitimate organizations would never do. It’s actually illegal for companies to make you pay before helping you. This claim is even more suspicious when they offer “quick” student loan forgiveness. In actuality, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program takes years to complete and includes detailed requirements for qualifying. To put it simply, if you have student loan debt, you must repay that debt. If you are having a challenge repaying your student loans, contact your lender or a reputable resource focused on assisting people in your situation.
Student Loan Scam Tactic #2: They Offer “Exclusive” Access
Some voicemails promote programs for reducing student loan monthly payments or even your total balance as part of an exclusive offer. However, companies who have your real best interest at heart would never make promises or offers without first knowing your personal financial situation.
Student Loan Scam Tactic #3: They Convince You to Act Quickly
These student loan voicemail scams work by telling you to call back “right away” or risk losing your offer. But you should never be pressured into an offer. You student loans will remain subject to your existing agreements with your student loan lender unless you take action to change them, such as by refinancing your student loans with a new lender. Don’t feel pressured to make a choice now. A company can only propose different rates or terms based on your applying for a new program. Take your time and do your research on who is making the offer and determine if they are a reputable organization with experience in student loans and student loan refinancing.
Student Loan Scam Tactic #4: They Use Political Buzz For Power
For borrowers with federal student loans, scammers sometimes claim transitions in presidential administrations have ushered in changes to student loan laws, for example, the switch from the Obama to the Trump administration. Scammers get fuel from the fact that many politicians are currently talking about student loan debt. They believe borrowers will get confused between the different proposals and plans and assume they’ve heard of the offer. Once you’ve given them your data, they have all they need.
Student Loan Scam Tactic #5: They Tell You That You Can’t Do It Without Them
This is the classic scammer line: you need me or else you will miss out on this great opportunity. We hate to break it to those scammers, but there’s nothing that they offer that you can’t do on your own – for free. You can explore lowering your student loan interest rate, negotiate new loan repayment terms, and even try to qualify for PSLF all on your own, without paying a company to assist you.
How Do You Avoid These Scams?
Now that you know what phony offers are out there, there’s one simple way you can avoid scammers: don’t answer the phone and don’t call them back.
- If you do answer the phone—and realize it’s a robocall—hang up and don’t push any buttons or engage in conversation. This is one situation where you should push manners to the side and get off the line as quickly as possible.
- Do your research into who is calling you and reach back out to them through the official phone number from their website if necessary.
- Remember, anyone can build a website. Make sure you validate a student loan company is authentic by looking for indicators, such as sufficient user reviews on reputable sites and a listing on the Better Business Bureau.
The U.S. Department of Education has outlined steps you can take to avoid student loan scams and listed companies they’ve taken action against.
If you’re looking to consolidate or refinance your student loans for a potentially lower interest rate or new repayment terms, the team at ELFI* can walk you through the entire process and help you decide if it’s right for you.
*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.
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