When 2023 began, student debt across American had reached a staggering $1.78T in total. Individually, people owe just over $37K in federal loans alone.
Are you among the 43M who owe student loan debt? Then you’ve probably heard about the Supreme Court decision on June 30th, striking down President Biden’s attempt to forgive approximately $430B in federal student loan debt. That’s 43M people who were expecting tens of thousands in debt relief.
Unfortunately, student loan givers and takers weren’t the only ones to hear this news…
Scammers know about it, too.
Why Big News is a Big Target
Most student debt in the United States is a federal loan; in fact, private loans only account for approximately 8% of what’s owed across the country.
Why does that matter? Well, because it’s easier to send a mass email to scam targets if there’s a higher likelihood that they one, owe money from higher education; and two, took out federal rather than private loans. It increases the chances that the targets will fall for the phishing “bait.”
Geographically, it breaks down even further: New Hampshire, for example, has the highest amount of debt per state, closely followed by Delaware and Pennsylvania. Scammers may choose to focus on those areas to try and get a bigger payout. Alternatively, they may go after Washington D.C. student borrowers because they have the highest national balance.
Narrower parameters can mean a more specific and personalized message, which can often be more effective in convincing victims to send money or information. Phishing continues to be one of the most effective ways to steal your information.
How to Spot, and Beat, Debt Relief Scams
Spotting and avoiding student loan debt scammers can be challenging, but here are some simple guidelines to help you protect yourself:
- Be wary of upfront fees. Always be cautious if someone asks for payment before providing any services or assistance!
- Scammers often make unrealistic promises, such as guaranteeing immediate loan forgiveness or significantly reducing your debt. Remember that there are no quick-fix solutions or shortcuts when it comes to student loan debt. Be skeptical of any offer that sounds too good to be true.
- Do not share personal information, such as your Social Security number, bank account details, or FSA ID, with unknown or unverified entities. Scammers can use this information to commit identity theft or access your financial accounts.
- Stick to reputable sources when seeking assistance with your student loans. Start by contacting your loan servicer or the official government websites, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (studentaid.gov), to explore legitimate options for loan repayment or forgiveness programs.
- Scammers often reach out via unsolicited phone calls, emails or text messages claiming to offer student loan assistance to potential victims. Legitimate organizations typically don’t initiate contact without your prior inquiry or consent.
- If you get that “gut feeling” about a message, trust your instincts. Take the time to carefully evaluate and consider any offers or services related to your student loans. Don’t be rushed or pressured into making immediate decisions.
- Take the time to research and verify the legitimacy of any company offering student loan assistance. Check their website, look for reviews or complaints, and confirm their contact information. Be cautious if there is limited or vague information available about the organization.
- If you have doubts or concerns, reach out to trusted sources for guidance. Consult with your loan servicer, financial aid office or a reputable financial advisor who can provide you with reliable information and advice.
Remember, it’s essential to stay vigilant, ask questions, and verify the legitimacy of any student loan assistance programs or offers. Taking these precautions can help you avoid falling victim to student loan debt scammers and protect your financial well-being!
Phishers can always be found swimming the wake of big news and financial hardship. Stay aware so you can stay safe.