Good news: The application for student loan debt relief is finally here.
Federal student loan borrowers who make less than $125,000 are eligible for up to $10,000 of debt forgiveness. Pell Grant recipients can also get an extra $10,000 forgiven.
Now for the bad news: Within days of the application process launching on Oct. 14, scammers were already attempting to take advantage of people seeking student loan debt relief. In fact, some social media users have begun sharing their own experiences with these scammers.
Based on the online conversation surrounding these fraudsters, it seems the most prevalent student loan aid scam right now is from cold-callers. Borrowers are receiving unsolicited phone calls offering quick debt relief…for a fee, of course.
In fact, the cold-calls are so prevalent that President Biden even specifically brought attention to these scams in his Monday announcement about the student loan debt relief application opening up.
Remember, you need to go and fill out the form yourself. If someone is coming to you in order to “inform” you about the program, it’s a scam.
Here are a few things borrowers should do to stay safe and avoid these scams.
It’s quick and easy to apply
Borrowers looking to apply do not need to dig up and submit any years-old student loan documents.
The application asks for a few simple things that most everyone knows off the top of their head: your full name, date of birth, phone number, Social Security number, email, and confirmation that you earn less than $125,000 to qualify for the relief. That is it. If borrowers are asked for any other details, such as a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, bank, or credit card information, they are at the wrong website and are dealing with a scammer.
The official relief form literally takes minutes to fill out. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has listed three relief-related official email addresses you might see appearing in your inbox in the agency’s own warning notice to borrowers:
If you receive an email from an address other than those, it’s not legit. Be sure to double-check the spellings, too, as scammers like to take advantage of similar-looking URLs and email addresses in their schemes.
Applying for relief costs zip, zero, zilch, nada
Scammers are obviously looking for money, so their student loan relief schemes typically involve recurring payments of some form to apply for forgiveness. Don’t be fooled.
The student loan relief program is absolutely free to apply to and the form is super simple to fill out, too. Anyone offering a service to help borrowers file is simply scamming them.
“If you get a call pretending they’re from the government trying to help [you] with your loans, let’s be clear: Hang up,” President Biden said to borrowers on Monday. “You never have to pay for any federal help for the student loan program.”
No, there’s no way to expedite the process
More than eight million people have already applied for student loan relief since the application went live last Friday. That’s a lot of applicants and likely means a long wait time.
And this was just during the “beta” phase of the relief process.
Some scammers are weaponizing this wait time by dangling the allure of instant gratification, telling borrowers they can speed up the application process. The FTC even specifically mentioned these scammers in its warning to borrowers seeking student loan debt relief.
Let’s be clear: There is no expedited process. These scammers are just looking to bilk people out of money for a nonexistent service they cannot provide.
“As people file their applications, the Department of Education will review them on a rolling basis,” the FTC said in a statement about the student relief scams. “Pack some patience and follow the process.”
If public officials are already aware of these new scams just a few days into the application going live, then you know the problem must be bad.
Yes, $10,000 to $20,000 of debt relief is a big deal. But you’ll need to be patient with the application process. That means you’re going to have to wait a bit. But at least you won’t spend years paying off those loans.
If you’re looking for student loan forgiveness, just go to StudentAid.gov and apply by Dec. 31, 2023. The application is quick and easy to fill out. And remember: You don’t need to pay for a thing.