Arvest Bank is warning consumers about student loan assistance scams.
In these types of scams, borrowers receive phone calls, emails, letters, and/or texts offering them relief from their federal student loans or warning them that student loan forgiveness programs would end soon. Usually, the so-called student loan debt relief companies offering these types of services don’t offer any relief at all. Often they’re just fraudsters who are after your money.
Here are some signs to help you identify a scam by a student loan debt relief company:
- They require you to pay up-front or monthly fees for help. It is illegal to charge an up-front fee for this type of service, so if a company requires a fee before they do anything, that’s a huge red flag—especially if they try to get your credit card number or bank account information. In some cases, they may even step in and ask you to pay them directly, promising to pay your servicer each month when your bill comes due. Free assistance is available through your federal loan servicer.
- They promise immediate and total loan forgiveness or cancellation. No one can promise immediate and total loan forgiveness or cancellation. Most government forgiveness programs require many years of qualifying payments and/or employment in certain fields before your loans can be forgiven. Also, student loan debt relief companies do not have the ability to negotiate with your federal loan servicer for a “special deal” under the federal student loan programs. Payment levels under income-driven payment plans are set by federal law.
- They ask for your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. The U.S Department of Education or its partners will never ask you for your FSA ID password. Your FSA ID is used to sign legally binding documents electronically. It has the same legal status as a written signature. Do not give your FSA ID password to anyone or allow anyone to create an FSA ID for you. If a company has access to your FSA ID information, they can make changes to your account without your permission.
- They ask you to sign and submit a third-party authorization form or a power of attorney. These are written agreements giving the third party legal permission to talk directly to your federal loan servicer and make decisions on your behalf. Debt relief companies often want these authorizations so that they can change your account and contact information, so you don’t realize that they aren’t actually paying your monthly student loan bill.
- They claim that their offer is limited and encourage you to act immediately. Student loan debt relief companies often try to instill a sense of urgency by citing “new laws” or discontinuing programs as a way to encourage borrowers to contact them immediately.
- Their communications contain spelling and grammatical errors. While many of the communications sent out by these companies look very formal (for example, fold-and-tear letters with safety patterns), they often contain spelling and grammatical errors. If you notice unusual capitalization, improper grammar, or incomplete sentences in the communication you receive, that’s a red flag.
What should you do if you’ve already shared your information or paid one of these student loan debt relief companies? You need to complete the following tasks:
- Log in to your Department of Education account and change your FSA ID. Do NOT share your new FSA ID password with anyone!
- Contact your federal loan servicerto revoke any power of attorney or third-party authorization agreement that your servicer has on file. You should also make sure no unwanted actions were taken on your loans.
- Contact your bank or credit card company, and request that payments to the company be stopped.
- File a complaint with the FTC*.
- File a report of suspicious activity through the Federal Student Aid Feedback System*.
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.