KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The current payment pause for federal student loans is set to expire at the end of August, over two years since it started early in the COVID pandemic.
As many await a decision from President Joe Biden on federal student loans, some borrowers are looking for any way to have their debt erased. Unfortunately, that has opened the doors to forgiveness scams.
Don Dare, an anchor, and reporter with WFXR’s sister station, WATE, recently received one of these unsolicited scam calls.
“Hello, this is a message from the Student Loan Forgiveness Center of Tennessee. As you may know, the forbearance period ends soon as payments may begin to resume,” said the voice on the phone.
Dare used the GI Bill to cover the costs of his degree at the University of Georgia, making the call from the Student Loan Forgiveness Center of Tennessee surprising.
“The reason we are calling is because your student loan is eligible for a forgiveness program. We need your authorization to complete the process. Please call our office located in Tennessee at 423… BEEP,” the call continued.
Dare took the recording to Tony Binkley at the Better Business Bureau of Greater East Tennessee. He called that local 423 number, supposedly located in Tennessee.
“One of the questions I did ask during our conversation is ‘Are you located in Tennessee?’ They said, ‘No, we’re in Irvine, California.’ They are a real business with a real address. However, their website is very suspect. It’s very, very simple. It’s hard to get somebody on the phone. There were just a lot of red flags for up for me,” said Binkley.
“If you had a student loan, would you work through this company?” asked Dare.
“Absolutely not. At some point, they are going to ask you for money. That’s the way they stay in business, that’s the way they survive. They going to ask you for money at some point. You can go directly to your lender, your student loan provider, or you can go to student aid resources on the government’s website to find out more information. You can get that information for free,” answered Binkley.
The bottom line here is to be careful with a call like this.
“When somebody is contacting you out of the blue, this is dialing for dollars. They’re just dialing up anybody they can. Hopefully, they’ll get a hit, somebody who actually does have a student loan — someone younger than you or me — hoping they can prey on the knowledge that they don’t have,” said Binkley.
There are legitimate student loan forgiveness programs that won’t cost you a dime. For example, the U.S. Department of Education offers free and legitimate student loan forgiveness programs, as well as ways to lower your student loan payments.
Scammers frequently ask for a fee, either upfront or as a monthly payment, in exchange for cancellation. That should be a red flag, the Education Department warns. Anyone that asks for your FSA login should also cause concerned — the department says they and their partners will never ask for that information.
Remember this though, if you receive a debt relief offer that seems “too good to be true,” it probably is.
If you believe you’ve found what could be a loan forgiveness scam, you can file a complaint with the Education Department. A complaint should also be filed if you believe someone has access to your FSA account, and the Education Department encourages contacting your loan servicer to ensure no actions were taken on your loans.
The White House said earlier this week that President Biden will make a decision on student loans before the end of August. This could include extending the payment pause as well as whether loans will be forgiven.