05 September 2023-Many Americans will resume making student loan payments in October, so Attorney General Michelle Henry is offering tips for borrowers to protect themselves from scams when making those payments.
Scammers are always looking for new opportunities to catch consumers by surprise, so be wary of potential solicitation calls offering loan discharge, forgiveness, cancellation, or relief services for a fee. The United States Department of Education and your federal student loan servicer will never charge you a fee for enrolling in any repayment plan.
“Scammers are sophisticated and aware of consumer trends, so there is reason to believe the return to student loan payments will result in an influx of attempted fraud, theft, and other criminal activity,” Attorney General Henry said. “My office wants borrowers to know about reliable resources available to them at no charge or security risk.”
The Office of Attorney General encourages borrowers to be vigilant. Never answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number. If the caller is legitimate, they will leave a voicemail or send you a text message and/or email. If the voicemail, text or email seems suspicious, ignore it.
If you have questions about your student loans, that help is free through your loan servicer or the Department of Education. Your loan servicer may have changed during the payment pause, so if you do not know who your current loan servicer is, you may log onto your student loan account on www.studentaid.gov to find your current servicer. Contact your servicer directly through their website or the toll free number listed on the servicer’s official website.
When discussing your loan, make sure you are working with the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, and your loan servicer. Never reveal to anyone your personal information or account password unless you are certain you are talking to your servicer or the government.
Your student loan servicer can help you:
- Lower your student loan payment;
- Understand your repayment options;
- Provide you with information about consolidation; and,
- Determine if you are eligible for PSLF loan forgiveness or other programs.
Again, you should never pay for financial aid advice or for help enrolling in income driven repayment plans, or any forgiveness programs. All of these programs are free to enroll, provided that you qualify.
The Attorney General encourages everyone working in public service occupations (more than 25% of employed Pennsylvanians work in public service) to enroll in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program by visiting studentaid.gov/PSLF. In general, this program is available to government employees, military service members, non-profit employees, and many other occupations. If you enroll, you can earn forgiveness of your loans after 10 years of repayment while working for a qualifying employer.
The Attorney General also encourages student loan borrowers to enroll in the federal SAVE Plan. It is the new income driven repayment (IDR) plan, and could reduce your payments significantly even if you were previously enrolled in an IDR plan. You can enroll in the SAVE plan by contacting your servicer or visiting studentaid.gov/SAVE.
Like all IDR plans, the SAVE plan calculates monthly payments based on your income and family size, rather than your loan balance. After a set number of qualifying payments, your remaining balance is forgiven. Additionally, under the SAVE plan, if you make your monthly payment (even if that payment is less than the total interest accrued each month), your loan balance won’t grow due to unpaid interest. This benefit of the SAVE plan is particularly important because the payment pause is ending, and your payments will resume in October 2023. Student loan interest resumed beginning on September 1st. Now is the best time to make sure those payments are affordable.
Under the SAVE plan, a single borrower who makes less than $15 an hour or a family of four earning $67,500 or less will not have to make any payments, but they will still earn credit towards loan forgiveness based upon their time in the plan. Borrowers earning above that threshold will save more than $1,000 a year on their payments as compared to other IDR plans.
For more information about financial aid fraud or to report fraud, contact the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can also visit studentaid.gov/restart to view all the resources available for student loan borrowers.
You can also contact the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Help line at 800-722-1300 whenever you have questions about your federal student loans and your options to manage them. You can also visit studentaid.gov/resources/scams to help you understand more about debt relief companies.
Consumers who feel they have been scammed by a student loan debt relief program may file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General online, by phone at 1-800-441-2555, or email at email@example.com.