There has been a sudden rise in the number of companies that are selling purported student loan assistance programs.
One of these programs was even being sold by an IRS approved non-profit charity that targets military members.
The approach seems to be similar, to sell consumers troubled with student loans some sort of hope or help. The problem with these programs is they fail to inform consumers this is something they could do themselves without paying, sometimes, tens of thousands of dollars.
Student loan debt is a national tragedy. It is seemingly a financial black hole with few solutions. And certainly if you are in trouble with private student loan debt the options are few, just what your loan servicer will offer you.
But if you are in trouble with federal student loan debt there are some good and reasonable solutions that are available directly from the government. These include programs that can discharge your student loans completely in certain situations like extended public service, teaching, military service, or permanent disability. There are also programs where you can consolidate your federal student loans into one loan and then have the payment reduced to as little as $0 a month based on your income.
As an example of how much can be accomplished by contacting the U.S. Department of Education directly, one company I investigated even sent me a proposed repayment schedule that certainly appeared to have been directly copied from the free government online calculator.
Granted, there is no perfect solution for student loan debt but there are reasonable plans consumers can investigate on their own before paying needlessly for the exact same service.
My issue is that student loan rescue companies fail to inform people of their options before selling them some purported magic service. In that case, people that purchase the expensive service are not making educated or informed decisions.
Do Not Give Your FAFSA PIN to Anyone
Student loan assistance companies are also asking consumers for the FAFSA PIN number and logon information to logon to the consumer account and then have the potential to take action as if they were the consumer. Consumers should not allow anyone to access their account using their FAFSA PIN.
As the Department of Education warns:
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Your PIN can be used each year to electronically apply for federal student aid and to access your Federal Student Aid records online. If you receive a PIN, you agree not to share it with anyone. Your PIN serves as your electronic signature and provides access to your personal records, so you should never give your PIN to anyone, including commercial services that offer to help you complete your FAFSA. Be sure to keep your PIN in a safe place. – Source
If you have given anyone your Federal Student Aid PIN number, you should change it immediately. You can do so here.
Any company that asks you for your FAFSA pin number should raise a red flag and make you want to research them further. To research any student loan rescue company before you do business with them, use this free guide.
Real Student Loan Help
A series of free student loan articles, guides and assistance can be found online here. These guides will explain how to discharge federal student loans in some situations and how to consolidate federal student loans and apply for an income based payment plan.
I urge all consumers to explore these options on their own before paying any company that claims only they can do this.
You should expect to see student loan rescue scams begin to explode in the next couple of years. This problem will get worse in the near term and many will be scammed by student loan assistance companies before the Federal Trade Commission or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes action.
When it comes to student loan rescue companies, buyer beware.