Companies targeting college students with promise of loan debt relief for fee, personal information

As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Andy Beshear is warning Kentucky college students to not fall for the latest scam to hit the Bluegrass – companies promising loan debt relief services for a large fee and student’s personal information.

Students should avoid these companies and contact their current student loan company that can offer changes to a repayment plan at any time for free, Beshear said. Students are assigned a loan servicer/company by the U.S. Department of Education when their loan amount is first paid out.

“The number of scams targeting Kentuckians is at an all-time high, but this scam angers me because it preys on students who are already overwhelmed with debt,” Beshear said. “This is at a time when colleges and universities are facing crippling budget cuts from the executive branch that will be passed on to students. I’m pledging the full resources of my office to prevent these companies from putting more stress on our students.”

Beshear said his office of Consumer Protection is currently investigating several of these companies, and is asking students who have been a victim to contact his office by phone, 502-696-5300, or by completing a complaint form.

Beshear will be partnering with Kentucky’s colleges and universities by traveling to campuses to raise awareness about this scam. Beshear will be at Morehead State University March 23.

“These companies are applying even more pressure to get students to enroll by alleging that my office is investigating their college or university for consumer violations and insinuating they are assisting the AG’s office by working with students to reduce, combine or forgive their student loan debt,” Beshear said. “This is an absolute lie.”

Beshear said there are several warning signs students should look for when contacted by these companies:

Beware if a student loan debt relief company contacts you with a high-pressure sales pitch and demands that you sign a contract and pay for services or fees up front.

Beware if these companies make promises of immediate loan forgiveness, debt cancellation or complete forgiveness after a certain number of payments. Debt relief companies do not have the ability to negotiate with your creditors for “special loan forgiveness” under the federal student loan programs currently in place.

Beware if a student debt relief company asks you for your personal or account information, such as your bank account or your Federal Student Aid PIN number. Your PIN is an ID number issued by the U.S. Department of Education to allow you access to information about your federal student loans and should be kept private.

Beware if the company asks you to sign a “power of attorney” or a “third party authorization.” These are written agreements signed by you and the parties giving them legal permission to talk directly to your student loan servicer and make decisions on your behalf.

If students have questions or concerns about repaying student loans, Beshear said they should contact their service provider directly to discuss repayment options by calling Federal Student Aid at 800-433-3243.

If students have problems with their student loan servicer or debt collector, they should contact the Student Loan Ombudsman of the U.S. Department of Education at 877-557-2575.

One of the critical missions of the AG’s Office is to help Kentucky families and seniors recognize and avoid scams.

Beshear joined Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller last week to urge Congress to reverse a new law allowing debt collection robocalls to the cellphones of college students struggling with student debt.

Beshear has recently warned consumers of a scam involving phone calls to Kentuckians claiming they had won the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, a scam targeting victims of financial fraud, an IRS scam and the federal warrant scam.

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