Misinformation has long been a problem for those needing financial relief. In the world of student loan debt, there’s plenty of companies and organizations that look to exploit those ignorant of their options, just as there are many who genuinely want to help.
Recently, a new wave of exploitive programs attempts to charge students for free services. Under what was advertised as “Obama’s new loan-forgiveness program,” graduates and students were provided information at a cost. However, not only does the latter program not actually exist, the information sold can readily be found at the Department of Education’s main website.
While there has been rumor of a plan to forgive certain people’s student loan debt such as teachers, no solidified idea has been announced.
This troubling act to swindle students continues the trend of third party organizations using deceitful methods to charge money for free services. According to a survey conducted by the borrow advocacy group Student Debt Crisis, roughly 9 percent of students have used a false program charging for free services.
The survey also discovered the charges related to underhanded business practices. Those using falsified debt relief services, on average, paid $613 for information they could have otherwise acquired for free. Information from the survey found the most common charges were related to income based repayment plans and loan consolidation. Additionally, 65% of those who used the services said their financial situation did not improve.
This was accomplished through widespread advertisements making false claims about the forgiveness program. From the survey, over 6000 students participated, and approximately 60 percent of them claimed they had seen ads for debt relief firms. The remaining percent explained they were told about relief programs directly from the various organizations claiming to help.
These organizations find success from two root causes: the total national student loan debt problem and ignorance of information. Because loan debt for graduates now totals $1.4 trillion, many organizations are attempting to find profit from that margin. Additionally, despite how readily accessible information related to repaying loans is, plenty are still unaware of their options as demonstrated by the listed poll results.
Typically, third parties provide “consultation services,” where they prepare paperwork for the student and claim they can lower or consolidate their payments. They, of course, charge an upfront fee, which is where most are caught and shut down. Currently, thanks to actions taken by regulators like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, several of these third parties have been shut down.
Unfortunately, though these third parties are halted, more are created in the span of weeks. This is because other organizations typically operate with few people and only need phones and computers to do their “jobs.”
The recent surge of third-party opportunists will likely die down over the next several weeks as others are made aware of the false forgiveness claims. But, so long as the debt crisis for student loans exists, organizations making incorrect claims about loan consolidation will continue to be a problem.
For anyone facing difficulty with loan repayments or looking to lower their monthly costs, they should always visit the Department of Education’s web portal for information on how to do so, especially when it comes to student loan forgiveness.