A recent commercial for Direct Student Aid caught my attention. It seems the company is advertising it can offer some sort of special help for people who are having student loan problems.
A secret shopper call, which you can hear below, found out the company charges between $799 to $999 for a service consumers can get for free from their federal student loan servicer or directly with the Department of Education.
As you will hear in the call, the company does not assist with private student loans so if you have a mix of private and federal loans, any solution will not be a comprehensive one that address the entire loan situation.
A transcript of this call is at the bottom of this post.
Of primary concern in the call was how the company identified themselves, “we are a federal consolidation company.” It certainly make it sound as if they were a governmental solution.
Additionally, the sales person made it sound as if the government wants consumers to default for their profit.
“And, you know, it’s really in their best interest to let you go into a defaulted status. They may a lot more money that way, so they’re really not looking out for your interests.”
The company commercial below, which started my interest in this company, makes all sorts of promises. Viewers would assume the company has some sort of power or authority over student loans, can stop collection calls, remove wage garnishments, and remove tax liens. They say they can cut loan payments as well.
Below you will find my review of the public facts on this company.
Direct Student Aid
Our Impression of What the Company Offers to Consumers
Student loan assistance consumers can get for free if they looked around a bit.
135 Avenue L
Delray Beach, FL 33483
This address primarily appears in search listings as Dance Sport, USA. But other companies share the same address; Clear Choice Marketing, LLC, Rapid Tech Support (source), life insurance agent Justin Gilman (Source), Elite Health Options.
This is what Google street maps shows for that address.
Additional Contact Information
“Since 2011 we have helped more than 3,184 student loan borrowers take control of their student loans. If you are struggling with student loan problems, the government programs we use can provide relief. With our help you can be sure you can get the maximum amount of help available to you.” – Source
The State of Florida has no business registration for a company under the name Direct Student Aid in Delray Beach Florida.
Interactiv Education, LLC does have a fictitious name registered of Direct Student Aid, Inc. But they report being located in Boca Raton. – Source
Interactiv Education, LLC is located at:
5301 N. FEDERAL HIGHWAY
BOCA RATON, FL 33487
Interactiv Education, LLC was formed on January 5, 2012 and reports it’s current management as David Stein and Thomas Panik. Their corporate registration does reflect the 135 Avenue L address. – Source
The company was originally formed as Interactiv Education, Inc. with David Stein as the president.
A search of the Division of Consumer Services to see if the company is registered for a telemarketing license, could not find one under Interactiv Education or Direct Student Aid.
Alleged student loan assistance.
The BBB gives the company a warning and has issued the following warning:
“Our file contains a pattern of complaints from consumers alleging difficulties requesting a refund from Direct Student Aid, Inc. These consumers have paid processing and other fees ranging from $199 – $799. Consumers request refunds after Direct Student Aid, Inc. fails to assist in consolidating the consumer’s student loan. Consumers say, although Direct Student Aid offers them a 100% money back guarantee, their requests for refunds are denied.
Other consumers allege unauthorized debit/credit card charges from Direct Student Aid, Inc. These consumers claim they did not enter into an agreement Direct Student Aid but the company debited their bank accounts.
Direct Student Aid, Inc. responds to these complaints with an explanation of the company’s services but denies most requests for refunds.
On March 14, 2013, BBB sent certified correspondence to Direct Student Aid, Inc. requesting their voluntary cooperation in resolving complaints on file with BBB and providing steps it will implement to eliminate the pattern of customer complaints.
On May 6, 2013, Direct Student Aid, Inc. responded to BBB’s concerns. In regards to the consumers alleging Direct Student Aid, Inc. failed to provide refunds when the company could not assist in consolidating the consumer’s student loan; the company states that in each case where Direct Student Aid has failed to resolve a client’s federal loans, a full refund has been issued. Refunds have been declined in the event Direct Student Aid has acted in good faith and provided services only to have the client fail to sign their loan application.
In regards to consumers alleging unauthorized debit/credit card charges from Direct Student Aid; the company states in every case each prospective client has provided a voice authorization on a recorded call for all monetary transactions.
On August 8, 2013, BBB reviewed this company’s complaints again and found that the pattern of complaints has not been eliminated.
BBB will continue to monitor the complaint activity of the company and update the Business Review as needed. – Source”
Domain ownership is hidden and kept secret. There is no idea who actually owns this domain.
Our Opinion After Review
We previously wrote a guide on what companies should offer in a fair and consumer friendly student loan service program. Please read How to Run a Clean Student Loan Assistance Program. In addition we provide the following guides to check out debt relief companies:
- The Ultimate Consumer Guide to Checking Out a Debt Relief Company Before You Sign On the Line
- How to Check Out a Business or Company to Avoid Getting Scammed or Ripped Off
- Program Fees Clearly Stated on Site: No
- Client Agreement Clearly Available on Site: No
- States Consumers Can Contact Department of Education Directly to Consolidate and Reduce Payments for Free: No
- Provides clear link to Department of Education Loan Options: No
- Provides Historical Performance Statistics: No
- Clearly Identifies Management/Officers on Site: No
- Company is Clearly Registered to Business: No Not without looking deeper.
It is our opinion the program reviewed here DOES NOT MEET OUR RECOMMENDED STANDARDS.
Scam, Complaint, Review or Praise
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Recording: – level of customer care, this call may be recorded. Please hold while we connect your call.
Adam: Direct Student Aid. This is Adam.
Caller: Hey, Adam. I saw one of your commercials recently and interested in more about how you can help me.
Adam: Okay. ____ works. We can help you out in a lot of different ways. What types of problems are you having with your student loans?
Caller: Well, I have federal student loans, and the payment’s just too damn high.
Adam: Okay. Are the loans in default? Or have you been making the payments but just having a tough time keeping up with it?
Caller: No, I’ve just been making the payments. I just want a lower payment.
Adam: Okay. And how much do they have you paying per month right now?
Caller: Oh, like, geez, it’s like $700.00.
Adam: Wow. Okay. Yeah, we can definitely consolidate all your loans together if you have multiple loans, get it down to one loan and one payment and, through the consolidation process also, reduce your monthly payment amount to a more manageable payment, ’cause that is a lot to be expected to pay towards your student loans. Okay?
Caller: So, who are you guys? ‘Cause it sounds too good to be true. You know what they say.
Adam: Okay. The name of our company is Direct Student Aid, and we are a federal consolidation company.
Caller: Oh, okay. So you’re part of the government?
Adam: We deal strictly with federal student loans, so if you have any private loans that you’re having problems with, that would not be included in the consolidation.
Caller: Oh, crap, ’cause I do.
Adam: It’s strictly federal loans.
Caller: So, you know anybody else who could help me with my private loans?
Adam: Private loans, from my understanding, you have to handle that with whoever it is that has the loans. It’s all different rules and regulations and stipulations as far as what can be done with them.
Caller: Okay. All right. Damn it. So if you’re a federal company, there’s no charge, right?
Adam: We do have an underwriting charge for our services, which depends on a lot of different factors: how much you owe, who they’re with, who the guarantors are. Some are a lot easier to work with than others, you know, as far as consolidating.
Caller: Yeah. Is there any reason I shouldn’t just contact my servicer directly?
Adam: Oh, I mean, yeah. I would assume you’ve already tried option, or else you wouldn’t –
Adam: – be giving us a call, right? You haven’t tried calling them?
Caller: No. I saw your ad, so I called you.
Adam: Okay. I mean, yeah, you can give ‘em a call, but I mean that’s still gonna keep you into a couple separate payments if you have different lenders. And, you know, it’s really in their best interest to let you go into a defaulted status. They may a lot more money that way, so they’re really not looking out for your interests. But you can certainly give them a call and see what they have to offer.
Caller: Okay. So where are you guys located? Are you near by?
Adam: We’re located in Delray Beach, Florida.
Caller: Okay. All right. Well, that’s a nice area.
Adam: Yeah, absolutely. A little hot this time of year, though.
Caller: Yeah. [Laughs] That’s right. So is this something that I can do myself? Or do I have to use you?
Adam: Oh, I mean you can contact your lenders, see what they have to offer; I mean similar to like – yeah, I don’t know if you pay someone to do your taxes, to make sure it’s done right. But we do guarantee our services, and I’m sure you can probably find somewhere out there. Maybe you can consolidate your loans on your own, but I would say more than half of our clients are people that have attempted that. Loans get left out. Mistakes get made. They either end up in default or owing a lot more money than what they had originally taken out, because of mistakes. So we do guarantee our services.
Caller: You’re pretty damn smart, Adam. You know all this stuff.
Caller: Hmm. So what’s your website?
Adam: Our website is just our company name, which is http://www.directstudentaid.com.
Caller: All right. So my wife’s gonna want to know how much this all costs.
Adam: Do you know which companies you have federal loans with and the approximate loan balance?
Caller: Well, they’re all with the Department of Education. It’s about $60,000.00.
Adam: About $60,000.00, okay. I mean you’re looking at probably anywhere between $799.00 and $999.00, somewhere in that range – not all due at once. The consolidation takes anywhere between two to three months, and we give you the full three months to break that up into installment payments.
Caller: Okay. Is there any ongoing payment?
Adam: You mean as far as anything additional added to your loan?
Adam: Any additional charges beyond that?
Adam: No, nothing else. So it is a one time underwriting charge, which will likely – you know, if you’re looking at $60,000.00 to $70,000.00, somewhere in that range – likely be between $799.00 and $999.00. We usually require a minimum down payment of $199.00 to start the consolidation and then, like I said, during that three months while the loans are being consolidated, you can break up the balance on the underwriting charge.
Caller: Okay. All right. Well, I’ll talk to my wife –
Adam: No additional charges will be added.
Caller: What? Charges?
Adam: And the interest rate would also be a weighted average of the current interest rates. A lot of people think that we’re gonna boost up the interest rate or something like that. That’s nothing that’s gonna change. That’s government regulated, so that’s nothing that you or I would have any control over.
Caller: Okay. Well, let me talk it over with the little woman and give you a call back.
Adam: All right. Well, I appreciate you calling in today.
Caller: All right. Thanks.
Adam: No problem. Take care.[End of Audio]