FBI Warns Student Debt Forgiveness Scams Are Imminent, Here Are The Red Flags

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The US Department of Education is currently preparing to forgive up to $20,000 per person in federal student loan debt. While there are multiple outstanding legal challenges to the executive order that authorizes this plan, those with student loans can already apply for debt relief on the official Federal Student Aid website. In light of this application being available, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a public service announcement warning that scammers will likely capitalize on the debt forgiveness plan as an opportunity to scam members of the public looking to receive debt relief.

The FBI anticipates that cybercriminals will set up fraudulent websites masquerading as the official application form for student loan forgiveness. These websites will likely attempt to trick people into giving away personal information or bilk them with fake service fees. Fraudsters may also directly contact people by email, phone, text, and other forms of electronic communication in order to lure them to these fraudulent websites or otherwise conduct scams related to student debt forgiveness.

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Official Federal Student Aid website landing page promoting debt relief (click to enlarge)

In order to avoid falling victim to such scams, holders of student debt should be aware of some key indicators that websites and messages offering loan forgiveness are actually scams. First, the official application for student loan debt relief resides exclusively on the official Federal Student Aid website at studentaid.gov (hover over or long-press a URL to see where it is actually pointing to). Users should avoid filling out application forms promising student debt forgiveness at other URLs. Users also shouldn’t respond to any emails, messages, or phone calls requesting information related to student debt relief.

Second, the official application form is free to submit, so users shouldn’t pay any kind of fee supposedly associated with student debt relief. Third, the official application does not request that borrowers log in or provide any documentation or financial information in order to submit the form. Thus, users shouldn’t hand over any login credentials, bank card information, or other financial information when applying for student loan forgiveness.

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Official Federal Student Aid website homepage (click to enlarge)

The FBI’s public service announcement directs all victims of online scams to file reports with the Internet Crime Complaint Center as quickly as possible. Users can also file reports with the Department of Education and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Those who mistakenly pay fraudulent fees should also report such incidents to the payment services and financial institutions involved in the transactions. Lastly, anyone interested learning more about the federal student debt cancellation program or applying to receive this loan forgiveness should visit the official Federal Student Aid website.