The FBI believes that scammers may be after people applying for the One-Time Federal Student Loan Debt Relief, a program announced by the Biden-Harris Administration in August 2022 that provides up to $20,000 in student loan debt relief. In a recent public service announcement, the agency warned of fraudulent websites, emails, texts, or phone scams aiming to defraud applicants.
Debt relief is open to people with an income of less than $125,000. Qualified Pell Grant recipients can get up to $20,000, while non-recipients can get up to $10,000.
That’s huge money, so scammers are likely to be paying attention. The FBI wants people to be on their guard for scammers pretending to be working on behalf of the program:
Cybercriminals and fraudsters may purport to offer entrance into the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program, contacting potential victims via phone, email, mail, text, websites, or other online chat services
It warns that fraudsters may attempt to charge users for services that are free (entrance into the student loan relief program is free and never requires payment), or use the program as an excuse for collecting personal information from victims.
Keeping away from scammers
Here are some to-dos to remain vigilant against scammers who are after student loan relief applicants:
- Only use official US government websites.
- Remember that the US government doesn’t charge processing fees.
- Use your common sense: Think twice before clicking links in emails, downloading attachments, or entering data into webites.
- Be wary of emails, texts, or phone calls from individuals claiming to be from the government and offering assistance on how to qualify or apply for student loan relief.
- When you have questions about loan repayments, talk directly with the financial institution or company providing the loan.
If you think you’ve been defrauded, file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the Department of Education, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB); call your financial institution to stop or reverse the transaction; and monitor your accounts and credit reports for fraud activity.