Wouldn’t you just know it? Within hours of President Biden’s student loan forgiveness going live, who shows up but scammers trying to get their piece of the action.
These scammers don’t have a loan they personally want forgiven, but they would like a crack at seeing how they can leverage the personal, private information of the millions of applicants who do.
Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) anticipated that something like this would happen and has advice on how applicants or parents of applicants can spoil the day for the scammers.
Scams to be on the lookout for
Apply at StudentAid.gov/DebtRelief. The FTC says don’t go anywhere else other than the OFFICIAL loan forgiveness website. Nowhere else. At the moment, all applications have to be done online and it’s available in both English and Spanish. There will be a paper version, but it won’t be available for a while.
Don’t pay to apply. Applying for student loan forgiveness is f-r-e-e, FREE. If someone calls you up and says you need to pay an application or processing fee, hang up the phone because they’re a scammer.
Patience will pay off. The application process is expected to be as slow as molasses, so pack a lunch and sit tight. “As people file their applications, [the Department of Education (ED)] will review them on a rolling basis,” K. Michelle Grajales, an attorney in the FTC’s Division of Financial Practices, cautioned. “Follow the process…not those who say they can put you in front of the line. Because those are scammers.”
Know what to share, where, and when. Here’s where things can be tricky, so heads up. The “real” application – the one online – has to have personally identifiable information like your name, Social Security number, phone number, address, and when you were born, but it does NOT require applicants to upload or attach any documents like, say, a photo of your Social Security card.
There are three “howevers” that applicants need to pay attention to when it comes to documentation and communication:
However #1: AFTER you file your application, the FTC says it’s likely that you’ll hear from ED — to upload tax documents verifying your income — or to give updates on your application.
However #2: Those emails will ONLY come from email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. IF you get an email that claims to be about the application, pay extremely close attention to the sender's address for emails, looking for slight typos. If an email does NOT have one of those three email addresses, then it’s a scam.
However #3: The items the application does NOT ask for include your Federal Student Aid ID (FSA) or your bank account number or credit card number. If someone calls and says, “Oh, we need your bank account number to process your application,” it’s a scam.
Follow ED’s process if your application is denied. “Anyone who says they can get you approved (for a fee) is a scammer. Your email notice will have instructions,” Grajales said.
What should you do if you have questions? Call FSA’s dedicated phone line at 1-833-932-3439. Oh, yeah – Grajales said callers can expect long wait times, too. Sorry.