Student Debt Relief, or a Scam?

By Crystal Baldwin

It is not every day that government relief is offered for paying off student loans. In the past, to help warn about scams, I can recall specifically saying something to the effect of, “The government doesn’t give you money to pay for your student loans.” Now that the government is, in fact, giving certain qualified borrowers some student loan debt relief (studentaid.gov), my blanket statement no longer applies. Criminal fraudsters may take advantage of this rare opportunity by representing themselves as providing this student loan debt relief.

Student loan debt relief scams - CAP: 1-800-649-2424 | blog.uvm.edu/cap

To make sure you are connected to the most accurate information when claiming your portion of the student loan forgiveness, connect with known legitimate sources.

  • The Federal Student Loan Debt Relief application is located on the Federal Student Aid website: https://studentaid.gov/debt-relief/application
  • The Federal Department of Education set up a “NEW! Federal Student Loan Borrower Updates” subscription so that you can receive notifications: https://www.ed.gov/subscriptions
  • Want to connect with someone locally? Vermont’s own VSAC has a wealth of information about student aid and stays in the know about available government programs.
  • Reach out to your loan servicer and update your contact information. Get your loan servicer information from your StudentAid.gov account.

Keys to detecting a student loan relief scam:

  • You never need to pay to claim your federal loan forgiveness. Hang up on calls asking you to pay!
  • The government does not solicit your participation in student loan relief programs, so you should not receive calls about it or click on ads offering student debt relief.
  • Hang up on callers asking for your Federal Student Aid/FSA ID. The Department of Education and your federal student loan servicer will not contact you to ask for this information. Keep your information safe from identity thieves, who may try to claim your student loan relief for themselves!
  • Companies offering debt relief in Vermont are required to be a licensed debt adjuster with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) Division of Banking. If you are interested in consolidating student loans, make sure the business meets the licensing requirements of our state and verify this with DFR.

Have you been contacted by student loan debt relief scam? Help others by reporting it!

Our nation’s consumer protection agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are working together to hold scammers accountable. “Over the course of the last 18 months, the FTC has reached nearly $30 million in settlements that included refunds for tens of thousands of student borrowers who were illegally charged up front fees and falsely promised reduced or eliminated student loan payments” (whitehouse.gov). Since 2011, the CFPB has required “refunds of nearly $8.7 million to consumers and banning several individuals from the debt-relief payment processing industry…” (whitehouse.gov)

  • Report scams directly to the Federal Trade Commission: reportfraud.ftc.gov
  • Report scam calls to help the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identify scam callers. Send your Student Loan Scam report to StudentLoanScams@fcc.gov and include the date of the call, time of the call, the recipient’s phone number, the number on the caller ID.
  • The Consumer Assistance Program is your state resource to help identify and report scams. File with CAP through our online scam form or call us at 1-800-649-2424.

Have a different student loan concern?

Find help and resources from the US Department of Education Office of the Inspector General.

Resources:

Federal Student Aid
The White House
US Department of Education
US Department of Education Office of the Inspector General

Shred events help to prevent identity theft

By Crystal Baldwin

This weekend, I am going to a Shred Event hosted by a local bank. My several boxes of shred-necessary paperwork–you know the documents riddled with personal identifying numbers–already seem lighter.

Banks periodically host events where they gather one or more mobile shred trucks, equipped with an industrial shredder and invite the public to offload their shredding. Different from an at-home shredder, which slowly snips small amounts of paper at once with varying outputs, cutting long strips or crosswise. The shredder on a mobile shred truck can handle large quantities of paper. An entire box, for example, can be dumped into the receptacle at once, returning small bits of paper. In the world of paper shredding, industrial shredders are considered quick and supreme. The result of compounding shredders with the anonymity of event participants is a massive indiscernible pile of recyclable paper. 

Shred Events: Protect Your Identity
Shred Events: Protect Your Identity

Why shred events?

Shred events help prevent fraud and financial identity theft by giving people an easy way to dispose of confidential paperwork. We all have it, and we need a safe and secure way to dispose of it. All an identity thief needs to wreak havoc on our financial future is our Social Security number, date of birth, address, and name. Shred events benefit you by helping you protect your personal information. They help banks by way of protecting the information of their clientele and eliminating potential bank fraud and related recovery costs.

Identity thieves are online, so why do we need to shred paper?

News of data breaches and the message to stay safe online and protect your electronic information remains true and important. And still, some of the more involved and impactful crimes of identity theft, such as the creation of new accounts and huge losses, are often committed by people close to us: a relative, supposed friend, or neighbor. Some of these folks may know exactly where you keep your boxes of personal files.

Still others may forage trash the eve of trash pickup. If you carelessly discard confidential documentation, you could be directly supplying a thief with your information.

Destroying documents that you no longer need is the best method to prevent potential theft and misuse of that document. Keeping such documents around your home, or neglectfully discarding them in original form makes you more susceptible to identity theft.

Can shred events destroy my devices that contain my personal information?

No. Shred events are all about shredding paper. Personal devices cannot be discarded or wiped clean of personal data there. Prior to discarding or recycling electronic devices, consumers must take crucial steps to clear personal data off a device through a factory reset or destroy the dive/circuit board altogether.

How can I find a shred event near me?

Banks as well as community organizations host shred events. When you find an event, such as through an online event listing on a third-party site, like Facebook, take steps to verify directly with the hosting entity.

To learn more about identity theft and protection steps, please review the Consumer Assistance Program’s website and blog.