An amazing reader, JMAN sent in a new debt relief mailer through my I Buy Junk Mail program.
This one is for something called the Student Loan Document Preparation and Processing Services Program, Student Loan Payment Reduction Department, and AF Student Services.
The key here is nothing in this self mailer is clearcut.
The outside of the mailer looks like an official document from a possible student loan servicer. notice that it does not identify who the sender is besides a generic name, Student Loan Payment Reduction Dept.
The consumer who sent this mailer in said, “I actually called the number and it was very sketchy. I realized it was a scam as someone answered after I was put on hold. I said “yes, I’m calling because I wanted more information on your debt forgiveness program but I just realized this is a scam. So I’m hanging up now.” The person was like “ah, I, I, ok.” You could tell I called her out and she didn’t know what to say. BUSTED!!!!! LOL!!! I hope a case regulator wants to give them some “special attention.” These people are the worst kind of scum!!!”
Those were harsh words but I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I’m not sure I could go so far to call the mailer a scam, but I can certainly point out some glaring issues that raise some red flags for me.
1. Student Loan Payment Reduction – Pre-Qualification Notice: That’s a lot of nice words but what does it mean? Is the mailer actually promising a reduction and how was the recipient qualified? My guess is they were discovered to have a student loan from a credit bureau mailing list. So what are they actually qualified for?
2. Student Loan Document Preparation and Processing Services Program: So there is no government program with that name but it is a service most student loan assistance companies are selling. I think this is a bit deceptive to promote something under the name of a “program” that is actually just the product. It seems a bit like calling a car wash a Vehicular Soil Separation and Hydration Impact Program.
3. Subsidized: By whom? Later in the fine print we will learn this is geared to only federal student loans so in that context it makes a bit more sense. But federal student loan programs are already available for free, click here. So what if you don’t qualify for one of those existing programs, who is going to subsidize your payment reduction? I’m going with nobody.
3. Payment Reduction Estimates: The fine print down below says, “All program representations are provided for illustration purposes only and based on borrowers with approx. $91,000 in student loan debt the company has helped.” The only problem here is we have no data to put the statement into context or even to know who “the company” actually is. So this data is based on how many consumers and do these estimates include the fees this unknown company will charge? What government program is this for? If it is for an income qualification program, how many people that the company helped qualified and how many actually paid off their loans for that amount or is that just a wild guess?
5. Identified: How? Is the government leaking information about the loans people hold or is this just because you have a federal student loan on your credit report.
6. $68 a Month: So if you qualify for one of the free government income based reduction programs where your government payment could be $0 per month, is this a clue the company is going to charge you $68 a month? If so, for how long, 20 to 25 years, the life of those programs? That would be $16,320 – $20,400.
7. Total Loan Forgiveness: So if the new payoff estimated above in the mailer is for $6,776 then how can this be for a 100% total loan forgiveness program?
8. Fine Print: So the payment you have been “pre-qualified for” might be different than the illustrations show. What good is the illustration for then? They even say the programs they are offering are “available to borrowers through the U.S. Department of Education.”
The fine print says the company is AF Student Services but a search cannot locate a company with that name and they don’t provide a clue where the company is located. How can a consumer check the legitimacy of this mailer before calling?
The mailer says the company is available on Pacific Standard Time so I took a look in California just to see if there was a company named AF Student Services registered there. And guess what, no company found.
I did call the number in the flyer and a very nice representative said the company is actually American Financial Benefits Center and their website is afbcenter.com. American Financial Benefits Center is a registered corporation in California. According to CorporationWiki, “Brandon Frere serves as the President and has interests in other corporate entities including Frere Enterprises located in Petaluma, CA. Brandon’s past corporate affiliations include Frere Corporation.”
The BBB currently gives the company an A rating. – Source
If I had to rank my concerns over this mailer and pick my number one red flag it would be why American Financial Benefits Center was not more open about who they were in and on the mailer. Brandon Frere gives his telephone number and email address on his website so why not just continue the gracious openness in the mailer. In fact his letter to his website visitors says all the right things, the mailer seems so out of alignment with his posted positions. it almost feels like some marketing company just ruined his good intentions with this low rate mailer.
My second burning concern would be the lack of information about the quality of the illustrations give to consumers. But that’s a matter for the regulators, not me.
I’ll send Brandon an email right now and ask him to comment on this post and observations.
The email bounced: “firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical details of permanent failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the server for the recipient domain afbcenter.com by aspmx.l.google.com. [2a00:1450:400c:c02::1b].
The error that the other server returned was:
550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.”
This offer was able to be reviewed because a kind reader sent it in via my I Buy Junk Mail program.
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