Caution

A lot of us have student loans – and some of us have trouble paying them every month. Some companies claim to resolve that issue by saying they can help you pay them down quicker, cheaper or get them forgiven altogether. Be cautious – some of these companies are running scams.

Here are some tips to avoid student loan repayment scams:

Never pay an upfront fee. It’s illegal for companies to charge you in advance before helping you to reduce or get rid of your student loan debt.  Companies that make you pay upfront might give you no help and not give your money back.  

Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Before they know your situation, scammers might say they can quickly get rid of your loans through a loan forgiveness program. But they can’t.

A Department of Education seal doesn’t mean it’s legit. Scammers use official-looking names and logos and say they have special access to certain federal programs. They don’t.

Don’t share your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID with anyone. Scammers could use it to take control of your personal financial aid information on U.S. Department of Education websites.

Last month, the FTC announced a lawsuit against American Financial Benefits Center (AFBC), Financial Education Benefits Center (FEBC), AmeriTech Financial, and Brandon Demond Frere as part of its crackdown against unlawful student loan debt relief practices, Operation Game of Loans. The FTC alleges that the companies charged illegal, upfront fees and failed to deliver on their promises to enroll people into a government program that they claimed would permanently lower monthly loan payments or result in total loan forgiveness.

The FTC also alleges the companies charged a monthly fee for the life of the loan (typically 10-25 years) and represented that the fee would go towards the student loan balance. But it didn’t.

You don’t have to pay for help with your student loans. There’s nothing a company can do for you that you cannot do yourself for free: federal borrowers can start with StudentAid.gov/repay; private borrowers can start by talking with their loan servicer.

Spotted a scam? Report it at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

Phishers send fake invoices 

We’ve recently heard that scammers are recycling an old phishing attempt. In this version, scammers, posing as a well-known tech company, email a phony invoice showing that you’ve recently bought music or apps from them. The email tells you to click on a link if you did not authorize the purchase. Stop – do not click on the link. That’s the new twist on an old scam.

More precisely, you just experienced a phishing attempt – that is, when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information. The scammers then use that information to commit fraud or identity theft.

Scammers also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network – then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.

Here are some tips to help keep your information secure:

Be suspicious if a business, government agency, or organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username or password or other personal data. Instead, type in the web address for the organization or call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click it you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.

Be cautious about opening attachments. A scammer could even pretend to be a friend or family member, sending messages with malware from a spoofed account.

Set your security software to update automatically, and back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly and use security software you trust to protect your data.

Lastly, report phishing emails and texts by forwarding them to spam@uce.gov and filing a report with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

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