Student loan scammers targeting borrowers now more than ever


This time of year, thousands of students are crossing the stage to receive their diplomas, but they’re also being targeted by scammers for student loans. Voicemails, text messages and emails all sounding authentic are sent to the borrower.Many of them promising things like student loan forgiveness. “I get a lot of phone calls, especially from cities that are really far away,” said Emma Vandaele, a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “The tone of the voice doesn’t sound professional at all,” said Paja Xiong, a freshman at UWM. “They usually say, ‘If you don’t join this program, you’ll miss out on this opportunity to pay off all your loans,” said Jennifer Santiago, a junior at UWM. “How often do you think you’re getting these?” asked WISN 12 investigative reporter Caroline Reinwald. “Once a week, couple times a week,” said David Aleckson, a senior at UWM. Not everyone is savvy enough to pick out the scammers from the legitimate sources. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission sent back more than $1.7 million in refunds to people who were scammed by a group posing as the Department of Education. “We are living in an age where it is so easy for scammers to lift brands, logos, information, graphics, information, even build websites that look like they’re from the government,” said Lisa Schiller, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau office in West Allis. Schiller said scammers cast a wide net when looking for their next victim. Though, student loan borrowers are particularly vulnerable. “It typically ramps up when kids walk across the stage to get their diplomas,” Schiller said. Especially now, since the White House announced the extension of its loan repayment plan through summer. “Scammers know this. They follow the news and so they’re going to take advantage of this,” Schiller said. Experts say one way to spot a scammer: if it sounds too good to be true, it typically is. “For a student just graduating, there is not a loan forgiveness program. So if you get a text that says your loan is being completely forgiven, I would be wary of that,” said Rebecca Neumann, a professor of economics at UWM. Neumann and Schiller suggested a few ways to stay savvy towards scammers.First, if you have a Federal Student Aid loan, then any website associated with it will have a .gov in the URL. The .gov means it is from the government. If you’re using a private lender, check with that lender directly before answering any messages or questions regarding your loan. They also said voicemails, text messages and emails that promise or guarantee loan forgiveness are a dead giveaway. Especially if they are rushing you to call them back, at risk of losing the deal. “They need to really be careful they’re actually to their lender and not to just somebody who says, ‘I can help you consolidate this loan. Or for a small fee, to get out of debt,'” Neumann said. “You don’t have to pay anyone fees to get out of debt. You just have to make your timely payments on your loan, that are required.” Both experts said working with your lender directly right away is the best way to avoid these types of loan scams. The BBB encourages people to research the lender by contacting them on their website.They said anyone who feels they’ve been targeted or fallen victim to a scammer should report it to their BBB Scam Tracker. You can also find online resources or report the scam to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

This time of year, thousands of students are crossing the stage to receive their diplomas, but they’re also being targeted by scammers for student loans.

Voicemails, text messages and emails all sounding authentic are sent to the borrower.

Many of them promising things like student loan forgiveness.

“I get a lot of phone calls, especially from cities that are really far away,” said Emma Vandaele, a sophomore at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“The tone of the voice doesn’t sound professional at all,” said Paja Xiong, a freshman at UWM.

“They usually say, ‘If you don’t join this program, you’ll miss out on this opportunity to pay off all your loans,” said Jennifer Santiago, a junior at UWM.

“How often do you think you’re getting these?” asked WISN 12 investigative reporter Caroline Reinwald.

“Once a week, couple times a week,” said David Aleckson, a senior at UWM.

Not everyone is savvy enough to pick out the scammers from the legitimate sources.

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission sent back more than $1.7 million in refunds to people who were scammed by a group posing as the Department of Education.

“We are living in an age where it is so easy for scammers to lift brands, logos, information, graphics, information, even build websites that look like they’re from the government,” said Lisa Schiller, a spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau office in West Allis.

Schiller said scammers cast a wide net when looking for their next victim. Though, student loan borrowers are particularly vulnerable.

“It typically ramps up when kids walk across the stage to get their diplomas,” Schiller said.

Especially now, since the White House announced the extension of its loan repayment plan through summer.

“Scammers know this. They follow the news and so they’re going to take advantage of this,” Schiller said.

Experts say one way to spot a scammer: if it sounds too good to be true, it typically is.

“For a student just graduating, there is not a loan forgiveness program. So if you get a text that says your loan is being completely forgiven, I would be wary of that,” said Rebecca Neumann, a professor of economics at UWM.

Neumann and Schiller suggested a few ways to stay savvy towards scammers.

First, if you have a Federal Student Aid loan, then any website associated with it will have a .gov in the URL.

The .gov means it is from the government.

If you’re using a private lender, check with that lender directly before answering any messages or questions regarding your loan.

They also said voicemails, text messages and emails that promise or guarantee loan forgiveness are a dead giveaway.

Especially if they are rushing you to call them back, at risk of losing the deal.

“They need to really be careful they’re actually to their lender and not to just somebody who says, ‘I can help you consolidate this loan. Or for a small fee, to get out of debt,'” Neumann said. “You don’t have to pay anyone fees to get out of debt. You just have to make your timely payments on your loan, that are required.”

Both experts said working with your lender directly right away is the best way to avoid these types of loan scams.

The BBB encourages people to research the lender by contacting them on their website.

They said anyone who feels they’ve been targeted or fallen victim to a scammer should report it to their BBB Scam Tracker.

You can also find online resources or report the scam to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

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