In the realm of repaying student loans, plenty of graduates are looking for any advantage to get crippling debt off their backs. While plenty of options do exist, including those such as loan consolidation or an income-driven payment setup. In this process, the life of a debt is generally extended, but monthly payments are made far more affordable and combined into one easy bill. Alternatively, some borrowers may receive a new, lower interest rate that will save them money over the life of their loans.

But with every advantage comes those looking to exploit individuals under financial duress. It’s no secret that a myriad of shady companies and their equally underhanded practices afflict graduates with more problems than solutions, and a recent discovery by the Washington Attorney General’s office cracked open yet more cases on the matter.

Seattle state students were overcharged by six “loan adjusters” over the course of the year for a service which can be utilized for free. Bob Ferguson, responsible for handling the matter, found a litter of deceptive and illegal fees charged to hundreds of students using the services in question. While the students had consolidated bills, numerous times were they overcharged, leading to an open and shut default case for the victims of the activity. Those six loan adjusters will be expected to pay back over $100,000 in reparations this year, along with additional court fees, and additional fees associated with enforcing the Consumer Protection Act.

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This, however, is only a small victory. Numerous more abusive companies exist across the United States, and ultimately, create a greater cost issue by soaking up resources related to the enforcement of the CPA, court fees, and repayment periods. Currently, student loan debt accounts for more than $1.3 trillion in the U.S., and exploitative companies such as these firms only worsen the issue. For instance, the average debt of a Seattle student is $25,000 and may grow in the coming years.

At this point, experts and protectors of student rights advise understanding the issues of consolidation in detail. Many graduates are not aware of the resources available to them for repayment, and without this awareness they are often taken advantage of. Lawmakers for protection rights assert the only way to stop underhanded practices from occurring is to be well armed with knowledge about the right steps for repayment.

As for the Washington based students, they’ll be receiving reparations sometime in July with disbursement checks. Afterwards, stronger enforcement of the Consumer Protection Act will occur to prevent shady firms from abusing individuals in the future.