The FBI warns of the potential for fraudulent websites, e-mails, texts, or phone scams aiming to defraud individuals seeking federal student loan forgiveness. Scammers will aim to solicit personally identifiable information, financial information, or payment from potential victims.
In August, the Student Loan Debt Relief Plan (2022 SDRP) was announced for individuals with incomes below $125,000, or joint filers with incomes below $250,000. Under the plan, the United States Department of Education will provide targeted student debt cancellation to borrowers with loans held by the US Department of Education. The loan forgiveness will provide up to $20,000 of debt cancellation for Pell Grant recipients, and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients. For more information on debt cancelation, eligibility, and other specifics of the program, please visit: https://studentaid.gov.
Cybercriminals and fraudsters may purport to offer entrance into the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program, contacting potential victims via phone, email, mail, text, websites, or other online chat services. Cybercriminals and fraudsters use their schemes to receive payment for services they will not provide or collect victim information they can then use to facilitate a variety of other crimes. Entrance into or assistance with any federal student aid program through the Department of Education or their trusted partners never requires payment.1
- Scammers often use electronic (email, text, website) communication methods to explain how a recipient qualifies for government aid and claim to need information or money from the victim to complete the application process. They may email or text the victim, with a body of text containing a link to follow. Once a victim clicks on what is thought to be a legitimate link to the official federal website, the website will request personally identifiable information (PII) such as name, social security number, date of birth, current and previous addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, mother’s maiden name, or social media handles to complete the process.
- Websites may solicit financial information such as bank account and routing numbers, credit or debit card numbers, digital wallet addresses, or other peer to peer money service transfer account information to process an application fee or complete the application process.
- Phone scammers may call victims claiming to be representatives of a bank or the Department of Education and ask for the victim’s PII and financial information to begin the application process for loan repayment.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
- The US government will not charge processing fees, in any type of currency – traditional or cryptocurrencies.
- Do not open links from suspicious email addresses.
- Always verify websites provided via email or text are official US government websites.
- Confirm any information regarding loan repayment with the financial institution or company providing the loan.
- Exercise caution when entering any personally identifiable or financial information on websites.
- Exercise caution when downloading images or files from unknown or unsolicited emails.
- Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors on the website or in the email.
IF YOU ARE A VICTIM
If you are a victim of an internet scam, the FBI recommends taking the following actions:
- Report to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov as quickly as possible.
- Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
- Contact your financial institution immediately to stop or reverse the transactions. Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
- Preserve any transaction information, including prepaid cards and banking records and all telephone, text, or email communications.
- Monitor your financial accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activity.
- Report to the Department of Education at https://studentaid.gov/feedback-center and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.