More than 40 million people in the United States have a student loan balance, across federal and private student loan servicers and lenders. Many student loan borrowers have multiple loans through more than one servicer which can make managing the average debt balance of nearly $30,000 a true challenge.
What complicates student loans even further is the fact that there are several bad actors disguised as legitimate companies, offering “help” with student loan servicing, repayment, and now, forgiveness.
Over the last year, thousands of student loan borrowers have been involved in a student loan forgiveness text message scam. Some non-borrowers have also received a text message informing them that their non-existent student loans are eligible for forgiveness. Some text messages state that loans have been flagged for forgiveness while others say a borrower’s student loans are now pre-qualified for forgiveness.
In either case, recipients of the fraudulent text message are encouraged to call for more information or to start the process. They are also given instructions on how to stop the text messages, simply by replying “stop.”
It may be easy for student loan borrowers with multiple student loan balances and servicers to fall for the forgiveness text message scam. Legitimate student loan servicers have increased their outreach to borrowers in the last several years, adding e-mail and phone call communications. So, receiving a text message may not seem like a stark change from traditional communication.
Unfortunately, the forgiveness text message scam is just that – an enticing text from a fraudulent person or company, trying to gain information from a student loan borrower and ultimately, money in exchange for whatever service they purport to provide.
Repercussions of Falling For the Scam
Several student loan scams exist today, with most scammers using phone calls and letters to encourage student loan borrowers to get in touch. The forgiveness text message scam is new, but it leads to the same negative repercussions for those who fall for it. By responding to the text message, a student loan borrower may then be asked to call a number for more information. Simply responding lets the scammer know that the phone number is active and a real person is willing to speak to them.
Once connected, the scammer may ask for personal identifying information that could then be used to establish new accounts in someone else’s name. Similarly, the scammer may request money from the student loan borrower to process the forgiveness paperwork. In all reality, there is no forgiveness paperwork to process, and any money paid for this service is lost.
Student loan borrowers are not only up against stolen personal information and out a pretty penny; those who fall for the scam may face repercussions from their actual student loan servicer. If a borrower believes that forgiveness is being processed, they may be quick to stop paying on their student loans as normal. This could lead to default which puts a serious dent in one’s credit score and history and makes it difficult to get access to new credit in the future.
Recent News about Text Message Scams
Student loan forgiveness text message scams make the news all the time. A non-borrower in Springfield, Missouri, receive a message stating, “Your Student Loans have been Flagged for Forgiveness through D.O.E. Call right away, reply stop to stop.” The recipient immediately knew the text was fraudulent, given he had no student loan debt, and reported the text message to his local news station. Had it been an individual with student loan debt, it may have prompted a call or a reply back.
Similar text message scams were reported in 2015 throughout the country, stating that the recipient’s student loans were pre-qualified for forgiveness. No student loan servicer sends text messages directly to borrowers about forgiveness; instead, borrowers receive information about the status of their student loans, eligible forgiveness programs, and repayment plans details in written form, both in e-mail and by regular mail.