How scammers are targeting Biden’s student loan forgiveness program

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It didn’t take long after President Biden announced his student loan forgiveness program in August for the scammers to get up and running. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) and federal agencies have unearthed hundreds of ads, text messages, phone calls, and emails targeting student loan borrowers. Their purpose? To get consumers to divulge private financial information or to pay for unnecessary services. In early October the U.S. Department of Education issued warnings about the student loan forgiveness scams and advice on how to avoid them.

 

Keep reading to learn how student loan forgiveness program scams try to fool you, and how you can avoid getting duped.

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Status of Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

The student loan forgiveness plan would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for single borrowers with an adjusted gross income of less than $125,000 a year, or less than $250,000 for married couples. Pell Grant recipients could have as much as $20,000 in student debt canceled. To refresh your memory, check out this story on the student debt relief plan.

 

The Department of Education (DOE) officially began to accept applications for forgiveness on Oct. 17, 2022. The application timing is designed to give borrowers enough time to get relief before the moratorium on student debt payments ends — and payment resumes in January 2023.

 

The processing of debt cancellation, however, could face delays because of several lawsuits challenging Biden’s program. A U.S. Federal District Judge is set to rule sometime in October on a preliminary junction on the plan until a final ruling.

 

While borrowers wait for more details, scammers are actively using phony government websites, false promises, and other criminal schemes to lure unsuspecting consumers. Here’s what you need to know to avoid student loan forgiveness scams.

 

Recommended: What Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Means for Your Taxes

Types of Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

Watchdogs have identified a variety of scams related to student loan forgiveness. Some are aimed at borrowers searching out information on the internet, and others directly target people who hold student loans. Fortunately, certain patterns are coming into focus. Here’s a rundown of what officials have seen so far.

 

Recommended: How Do Student Loans Work? Guide to Student Loans

False Deadline Warnings

These scams include texts, calls, and emails sent to borrowers conveying a false sense of urgency that they must take action before a certain date or miss out on forgiveness. In reality, the messages are designed to scare you into disclosing personal financial information, which criminals may then use for identity theft and other financial fraud. Be very wary of any “student loan forgiveness center” calls.

 

On Oct. 17, the DOE opened the official forgiveness application portal. The deadline for applications is the end of 2023, but you’ll want to apply a lot sooner if your payments will be resuming in January.

 

What’s more, for many borrowers who already have income information on file with the DOE, forgiveness will be automatic. No application — and no deadline — is necessary.

Fake Email Alerts

Especially while borrowers were waiting on an email from the DOE informing them that the forgiveness application was open, scammers are sending fraudulent emails that look as if they might be from the government in an effort to collect personal financial information. This and other fraudulent strategies are expected to continue.

 

To make sure you’re responding to a legitimate email, always check the address of the sender. The full address isn’t always obvious on a phone or other mobile device: That interface often shows only the name of the sender. Always click on the sender’s name to see the actual address.

 

The address is likely to be the real thing if it has a .gov ending, something not easy for fraudsters to imitate.

You can sign up for student loan forgiveness notifications and updates from this DOE webpage.

Help With the Student Loan Forgiveness Application

There are lots of offers on the internet and elsewhere to help borrowers claim their loan forgiveness — for a fee. While not all of the companies offering these services are illegitimate, the DOE has warned that it won’t be necessary to pay for help. They promise the application will be simple and quick to complete.

 

Predatory companies love to use webinars and videos explaining the details of the loan forgiveness program. The ending is always the same: a plea to sign up for their paid service, with the promise they’ll get you your debt relief. They may claim they can get you additional benefits, get your benefits faster, or get you to state tax breaks if you pay them upfront. In some cases, the outlaws charge hundreds of dollars for unnecessary service.

 

A real government agency will never ask for an advance processing fee. And legitimate student loan servicers will never charge a fee for providing information about your loans. You can check if a company works with the DOE at the Federal Student Aid site on avoiding scams.

 

Recommended: 9 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

What You Can Do to Avoid Scammers

To protect yourself from student loan forgiveness program scams, familiarize yourself with the following tips. They can help you avoid the threat of costly identity theft or financial fraud that can result from these schemes.

  • Never give out your FSA ID, student aid account information, or password. The DOE and the company that services your federal student loans will never call or email asking you for this information. Along the same lines, never give your personal or financial information — including your Social Security number and bank account information — over the phone or email. (That said, the beta version of the forgiveness application asks for your Social Security number but not your FSA ID.)
  • Avoid upfront fees. Think twice before paying anyone for help filling out the application. It is highly likely you won’t need help because the government is promising a free and easy-to-use application. Paying a fee before the application is even available is totally unnecessary.
  • Stay up-to-date. Having the most accurate and current student loan forgiveness information is the best defense against fraud. As mentioned above, sign up with the DOE for notifications and updates. And keep an eye on the Better Business Bureau and Federal Student Aid websites for the latest official information.
  • Update your contact information. To receive official notices related to student debt relief, make sure the government and your loan servicer have your most current contact information. If your income information is already on file at the DOE, qualifying borrowers will automatically receive loan forgiveness without having to apply. All borrowers, whether or not they have to apply, will be notified by the DOE when the application goes live.
  • To make sure you get these notices and other updates, sign up with StudentAid.gov to receive text alerts. If you don’t have a StudentAid.gov account, create one now.

You’ll also want to make sure your student loan servicer has your most recent contact information. You can find your federal student loan servicer’s contact information at Studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers

The Takeaway

Understanding how student loan forgiveness scammers work is an important step toward protecting yourself. Staying up to date on the latest official news and announcements can also help you bypass the onslaught of scams out there. Another important defense: Actively manage your student loan accounts and make sure all of your information is accurate and up to date.

 

SoFi can help. If you have more federal student debt than the new debt relief plan will forgive, or you don’t qualify for loan forgiveness, or you have private student loans, you may want to consider refinancing your debt before rates rise further.

 

If you do qualify for forgiveness and you refinance your entire federal student debt, you will no longer qualify for the new program. If you still wish to refinance, leave up to $10,000 unrefinanced ($20,000 for Pell Grant recipients) to receive your federal benefit. Remember: Good information is your best weapon when it comes to managing all aspects of student debt.

FAQ

What are common types of student loan forgiveness scams?

Look out for false email alerts claiming to be from the government and phony government websites. These schemes attempt to get you to divulge personal financial information, which can then be used for identity theft and other financial fraud. Other scammers are offering unnecessary forgiveness application help for a costly upfront fee.

How can I avoid falling victim to a student loan forgiveness scam?

Information is your best defense. Sign up for government alerts and notifications, and keep an eye on advice from official outlets. Also, make sure your contact information is current with both the government and your loan servicer.

Does everyone eligible to receive student loan forgiveness need to fill out an application?

No. If your income information is already on file with the Department of Education, you will not need to apply for student loan forgiveness. You’ll receive it automatically.

 

Learn More:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended to December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit. CLICK HERE  for more information.
Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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More from MediaFeed:

What we know about Biden’s plan to cancel student loan debt

 

Whether President Biden can unilaterally cancel student debt remains cloaked in secrecy for now. According to the Wall Street Journal, the reveal will likely happen in July or August.

 

This announcement will happen before September 1, when student loan payments are set to resume after the extended pause. Biden’s actions (and talk of his possible actions) have long since stirred a fierce debate on whether the president can actually cancel student loan debt. The following article breaks down the latest information. Keep reading to get all the details and context.

 

Related: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Student Loan Refinancing

 

 

Gage Skidmore

 

On the 2020 presidential campaign trail, Biden ran in part on a student loan reform platform. On top of suggesting potential changes to existing federal student loan forgiveness programs, he floated the possibility — both in Tweets and in campaign speeches — that he supported a proposal to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt.

 

And in April of last year, Biden asked the Department of Education if he had the authority to cancel student debt. He received a memo in response, but no public eyes have seen it so far. Thus, the cloak of secrecy.

 

For now.

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Biden recently erased $5.8 billion worth of educational debt for all former students of Corinthian College, the now-closed, for-profit school. This is the largest single student-debt cancellation ever by the United States government.

 

Another $6.8 billion in student loans were obliterated for 113,000 borrowers through amendments to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This allows non-profit and government employees to have their remaining debt forgiven after 10 years or 120 payments.

 

And more than $8.5 billion in student loans have been forgiven for 400,000 borrowers who have a total and permanent disability.

 

Additionally, let’s not forget the $2.1 billion for 132,000 borrowers through borrower defense to repayment. People can apply for borrower defense if their education provider deceived them “or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws,” according to the ED’s Federal Student Aid office.

 

fizkes / istockphoto

 

As many borrowers keep their eyes peeled for Biden’s summer announcement, speculation is growing about what is happening behind the scenes.

 

Many believe a debate continues in the Biden administration over the political and financial ramifications of wiping out billions in student loans. On one hand, the November midterm elections would be a good reason to come through on a campaign promise. On the other hand, inflation, which the Federal Reserve is fighting by raising its interest rates, could be exacerbated by the sudden cancellation of billions of debt.

 

While the political environment is evolving quickly, here’s an overview of some ways Biden might tackle the issue…

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

So, can the president unilaterally forgive student debt? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Elizabeth Warren, among others, are pressuring Biden to take this controversial step, with the former repeatedly saying, “You just need the flick of a pen.”

 

Now that Biden has frozen repayments until Aug. 31, 2022, people are waiting for what happens next. Will it include a student loan forgiveness executive order? If not Biden, which president will forgive student loans in the future?

The coming announcement could impact how things unfold in the years to come.

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

The president reportedly plans to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower. According to the Washington Post, the latest plan is for limiting debt forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 (or possibly $125,000) in the previous year or less than $300,000 (or possibly $250,000) for married couples filing jointly.

 

But Biden is hesitant to cancel the debt with the stroke of a pen. So despite the mystery surrounding the memo from the Department of Education to Biden, he continues to act through them to avoid Congressional challenges to an executive order.

 

 

 

Youngoldman / istockphoto

 

Some want to see all student loan debt canceled. But reports about forgiving $10,000 are saying it would be for federal loans only. If you’re looking for private student loan relief, namely to lower your payments, you may want to consider refinancing.

 

 

DepositPhotos.com

 

Borrowers have been in limbo, waiting to know if and how much student loan debt the Biden administration will cancel. But with interest rates climbing, it could be a good idea to focus on the aspects of your educational debt that you can control.

 

One place federal borrowers can start is to determine if they qualify for existing federal student loan repayment programs — including income-driven repayment, deferment, and public service student loan forgiveness.

 

Another place, as mentioned earlier, is to look into student loan refinancing, it’s important to understand the refinancing process. When federal student loans are refinanced through a private lender, the borrower forfeits eligibility for federal repayment programs as well as federal protections like forbearance and deferment. (With private loan refinancing, a new private loan replaces the borrower’s existing educational debt — generally including new loan terms and rates).

 

Certain private lenders offer hardship programs to provide a cushion for the unexpected — like being laid off for no fault of your own. (Not all lenders offer these programs, so it’s key to read the lender’s terms and fine print).

 

When weighing whether to pursue student loan refinancing, some borrowers find it useful to research the rates and terms offered by lenders, including any fees or penalties.

 

Michael Krinke

 

When will student loans be forgiven?

There is no single answer to this. It depends on the type of loan you take out and your specific circumstances. The Student Loan Forgiveness page from the Department of Education  has all the current details to help you understand more.

Do student loans go away after seven years?

Sorry, there is no program currently in place for that. This belief stems from the fact people see student loans disappear from their credit report after this amount of time. Seven years after the first missed payment that led to a loan either defaulting or being charged off, the main three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) erase the default status and late payments from reports.

Are student loans forgiven after 25 years?

The answer to this is a “yes but.” Yesyou can have your student loans forgiven after 25 yearsbut only if you pay them under an income-driven repayment plan, and this only applies to federal loans. The U.S. government offers four income-driven repayment plans.

 

Deposit Photos

 

Major news outlets reported in late May that the president plans on forgiving $10,000 of federal student loans for each person who makes less than $150,000 (or $125,000) annually. He’s expected to make an announcement this summer, no later than when the Cares Act payment freeze is scheduled to end (August 31).

 

But if you are thinking of refinancing, it may not pay to wait for an official word. After all, interest rates are on the rise from their historic lows. Instead, you could refinance all but $10,000 (or whatever amount you think will be forgiven) and lock in today’s low rate.

 

Learn More:

This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891  Opens A New Window.(Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636  Opens A New Window., a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

 

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