Identifying Student Loan Scams
Graduates and students often receive phone calls, emails, and mail about loan forgiveness. While it sounds great, how do you know if it’s a scam? As it turns out, most of the time, it is.
We’ve heard horror stories about students paying for help with their loans, only to find out what they paid is lost money, and their student loan balance didn’t change. Or worse, their student loan balance increased and the payment is now late, because they were working with a scammer and not their real loan servicer.
Some recent false claims the Department of Education specifically mentions include:
“Act immediately to qualify for student loan forgiveness before the program is discontinued”. The Department of Education and loan servicers will not participate in aggressive advertising like this.
“Your student loans may qualify for complete discharge. Enrollments are first come, first served.” While there are discharge options due to a total and permanent disability, it’s never first come, first served.
If it sounds like you have to hurry or you’ll miss out, it’s a scam.
“Student alerts: Your student loan is flagged for forgiveness pending verification. Call now!” Again, the Department of Education does not aggressively advertise. If it sounds like something a used car salesman would say, it’s likely to be a scam.
If you receive communication like this, always call your servicer directly. Call the number listed on your monthly bill or when you log in to your online account; do not call the number listed in that particular solicitation.
If you don’t know how to reach your servicer, call SSMT! We can provide you with an accurate phone number.
Never call a number. or click a link, in a solicitation email. Call your servicer or SSMT.
Always verify the authenticity of any solicitation you receive about your student loans. Most of the time, if you received communication via any method, there will be something in your online account as well. If you received an email or regular mail, but there’s nothing related when you log in, it might be a scam.
Your loan servicer, and the Department of Education, will never ask you to pay for help. If you’re eligible for loan forgiveness, a discharge due to disability, or anything else, while you may have to provide documentation, it’s the law that you’re eligible. They cannot and will not charge a fee to determine if you’re eligible. And if you are eligible, they cannot and will not charge you fees to process the request.
They also cannot and will not charge you any fees for processing a deferment or forbearance request or for changing your repayment plan. Under the law, borrowers may be eligible (under certain circumstances) for a deferment, forbearance, or changing their repayment plan. While it’s not guaranteed that you are eligible, your servicer will never charge to give you information, or to process your application, for any of these things.
We’re here to help! If you need information or just want a reassuring “second set of eyes” to check out the communication you received, just ask us. We’ll help you determine if it looks like it might be a scam, and we’ll help you reach out to your real loan servicer.
If you’re having trouble making your student loan payments, there are many ways to find relief. The Department of Education provides a variety of repayment plans to keep you on track without causing you hardship. Sometimes that’s not enough, and you need to stop payments altogether for a period of time. That’s called forbearance.
There are two types of forbearance: mandatory and discretionary, and it can last up to 12 months. You will find that your FFELP or Direct Loan lenders are not like your auto loan lenders or credit card companies, in that they often want you to succeed and will try to help you through difficult times.
Lenders are required to provide a mandatory forbearance if you meet certain qualifications, which include:
- Your monthly loan payment is 20% or more of your gross monthly income
- You are serving in a medical or dental residency and meet specific requirements
- You are teaching in a program that qualifies for teacher loan forgiveness
- You are serving in an organization such as AmeriCorps
- You are called into active military duty
- You qualify for partial repayment under the U.S. Dept. Of Defense Student Loan Repayment Program.
A discretionary forbearance is one that is granted to you by your lender, even when they aren’t required to do so by regulations. It’s smarter for lenders to grant you a discretionary forbearance and reevaluate your situation in 6 or 12 months than to let you go into default and send you to collections. Most lenders will approve forbearance for illness, unexpected expenses, or financial hardship, even if your loan payment is less than 20% of your gross monthly income.
Your loan interest, on both Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans, continues to accrue while you’re in forbearance, but (unlike going into default) forbearance status will not affect your credit score. The interest will be added to your principal balance and then you’ll be charged interest upon interest as time passes. If you can afford to, make interest-only payments on your loan during forbearance.
Start the process by contacting your loan servicer. If you’re an SSMT grad and don’t know who to contact, just ask us and we’ll be happy to look it up for you.
Applying for Federal Financial Aid Just Got Simpler!
There are two new important changes to the 2017-2018 application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Both should make filling out the application easier and give you the ability to see your entire financial aid package sooner!
First, the 2017-2018 financial aid award year doesn’t start until July 1, 2017, but now you can fill out your FAFSA as soon as October 1, 2016. We used to have to wait until January! This means you can see your entire financial aid picture sooner.
The second change is that you’ll use your 2015 tax return Continue reading