Starting Sept. 1, student loan repayments are scheduled to return for millions of borrowers around the country.
While the long pause on student loan payments and interest accrual has been a much-needed relief for borrowers, these individuals must now reacquaint their minds and budgets to these monthly payments.
During the hiatus, many student loan servicers ended their contracts with the federal government and exited the student loan servicing business.
In 2021, Navient, FedLoan Servicing (also known as Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency), and Granite State Management and Resources (NHHEAF Network) ended their contracts with the federal government. As a result, these loan originators transferred the loans to new providers, so borrowers may have been passed from one servicer to another.
With shifting repayment dates and new service providers, it's understandably a bit confusing for borrowers.
With uncertainty comes the bad actors. Scammers may try to dupe borrowers into paying them instead of their new servicer. Not to mention all the other solicitations borrowers are likely already receiving offering to help them with their student loans.
Better Business Bureau encourages all borrowers to be cautious when contacted directly by someone claiming to be their new federal loan servicer or anyone else with miracle promises to reduce student loan debt.
Keep your contact information up-to-date with your servicer
Each of the three servicers mentioned above are taking steps to ensure transparency during this change. The borrower should have received multiple emails and letters in the mail notifying them of these changes and what to expect. Borrowers will want to check their accounts with their new student loan servicer as soon as the switch is complete to ensure their outstanding loan amount and all previous payments are reflected.
Research before providing personal information or paying any 'fees'
Watch out for companies that promise to lower payments through enrollment in student loan forgiveness programs — but then charge a fee. They may make empty promises to apply monthly payments to student loans to help improve credit scores and/or negotiate with the lender on the borrower's behalf. In another scenario, dishonest collectors claim consumers can save money by consolidating loans, as long as they pay a fee.
Whichever scenario is presented, the risk is paying a fee for their "service" but receiving little to no results — especially if the call is from a scammer — leaving borrowers with the same amount of debt and limited recourse to get their money back.
Please keep your personal information private and never give it to an unsolicited source. Ask the representative for their name and the company they represent. Do your own research on trusted sources like BBB.org for potential consumer alerts or concerning reviews before agreeing to anything.
The bottom line
Whether contacted by phone, email, or text message, be wary of anyone who makes contact unexpectedly. Government agencies, as well as most student loan servicers, will contact borrowers by mail initially.
If you are unsure if a message is legitimate, investigate by seeking information on the official website and calling the company at the phone number listed on that website. Do not click on unfamiliar links that can potentially download malware and steal your personal information. Do not give into pressure to make a decision or give personal information right away.
Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost and do not require a third party.
If you or someone you know has come across suspicious activity, file a complaint at StudentAid.gov and report them to BBB.org/ScamTracker.
For more consumer tips, visit BBB.org.
Rebecca Barr is public relations and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau.
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