Investigating student debt relief calls

Investigates

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Student loan debt in the U.S. is now nearing $1.7 trillion.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, scammers taking upfront fees in the promise of debt relief have gotten away with millions of dollars.

Now, a call that sounds legitimate is targeting people with student loan debt in KELOLAND, saying that your debt could be “wiped out.”

We’ve all gotten robocalls and it’s pretty easy to detect a computer-generated voice these days.

Only the scammers are getting even more sophisticated.

Take a listen to this call. 

“Hi, this is Jenny, sorry I missed you.”

She goes on to say:

“I’m with the Federal Student Loan Advocates and since we had this recent government shutdown back in January and February, I wanted to let you know that you can now use the William D. Ford Act to have the balance of your loans wiped out, and um, all your future payments halted.”

Federal Student Loan Advocates sounds like it’s the federal government. That’s what they want you to think.

Also the William D. Ford is just the name of the Department of Education program that gives out low interest loans to parents and students. It’s not a way to “wipe out the balance of your loans.”

KELOLAND Investigates called the number back and finally got through to a real person who said his name was Trevor.

Angela Kennecke: Are you affiliated with the Federal Government. It said you were the Federal Student Loan Advocates? 
Trevor: We work in compliance with them.

He didn’t seem to know anything about the William D Ford Act.

Kennecke: Would it indeed wipe out the balance of my loan?
Trevor: When does it come out? When does that act come out? Is that going to be coming out in the future?
Kennecke: No, I got a call from your company. It’s an act that’s been in place for a long time.
Trevor: Yeah.
Kennecke: Well, I got a call from your company telling me it would wipe out…
Trevor:  Well what we do is… we could wipe out your loan. Let me pull up your loan information and we have to see if you qualify first.

He asked for a birth date, income and Federal Student Aid Identification number. The Department of Education says you should never give out your FSA ID because it allows third parties to make changes to your account without your permission.

“You can go to our website right now. It’s studentaid.ed.gov,” Trevor said.

That’s a Department of Education website.

Kennecke: Are you with the Department of Education?
Trevor: …. No.

Then he gave this website. At the bottom the disclaimer says it is not affiliated with the DOE and that you can apply for loan consolidation through the Department of Education yourself, without paying any one to do it.

Although Trevor said it’s nearly impossible to do on your own. 

Trevor: If you do on your own, 99 percent get rejected.
Kennecke: 99 percent?
Trevor: That’s why you use us.

KELOLAND Investigates reached out the U.S. Department of Education and they told me that is simply false.

We tried to find out from “Trevor” exactly how much this company charges people to do what they can do themselves for free.

Trevor: Say you’re paying $200, we’d keep you at that $200 for three months and then we’d drop you down to whatever you qualified for.
Kennecke: You’re not allowed to charge upfront fee, according to the Department of Education.
Trevor: That’s just to get you out of the program, okay ma’am?

After he found out we didn’t have any student loans, Trevor didn’t want to speak with us any longer.

For more information, visit the Department of Education website.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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