BOISE, Ida. — Scammers have new targets this graduation season: recent college grads and soon-to-be students.
The Institute for College Access and Success reports borrowers owe, on average, over $28,000. Student loan debt is so common among students in the United States, scammers use it as an easy opportunity to take advantage of current students and graduates.
Scams often start as a phone call, email, or letter to the student, claiming their company can alleviate all student loan debt for a fee. They also claim to have helped other student loan holders, but loans can only be forgiven under very specific circumstances. Those circumstances aren't approved fast or easily and instead of helping, scammers take your fee and disappear.
The Better Business Bureau says scammers are targeting students right now because many have recently graduated or are trying to secure funding in time for the fall semester. These borrowers are still young and don't have a lot of experience paying off debt like student loans, meaning they can be easily lured into scams. BBB receives countless complaints from victims every year through the BBB Scam Tracker. The student loan debt relief industry is known for making big promises that they are short on delivering and many charge a service fee for something you can do by yourself at no cost.
There are ways to avoid being scammed, starting with never paying upfront fees. Avoid deceptive phrases like, "we do the work for a fee." Real lenders will take a percentage once their service is complete and will never demand an upfront fee.
Remember to do your research and ask questions. Check to see how long the company or lender has been in business and ask questions: Does the lender appear to be well-established? Are they applying pressure for you to sign up?
Know your options. If you're having trouble paying back your student loans, contact your lender directly to discuss ways to make it easier to repay your debt. Options may include making lower payments or suspending loan repayments for a while. The type of student loan you have and the type of lender (government or private) will impact the kinds of options available to you.