Monthly payments on student loans can be an incredible burden, so you may be one of the millions of Americans looking for help or refinancing. The good news is that there are many more financial institutions today offering refinancing. (At this time, Patelco doesn’t offer refinancing, but we do have debt consolidation loans that can help you tackle your student debt.)
The bad news is that there are also unscrupulous scammers out there looking to take advantage of you. Know these seven common signs of scammers so you can avoid them.
1. The salesperson is being really pushy.
When you’re making a decision like refinancing your student loans, you should be 100% comfortable with each step. There is zero reason that you should rush into something you don’t understand or have reservations about. If the debt relief company or refinancing company is being aggressive, cut off contact with them. As a Patelco member, you have complimentary access to no-cost financial counseling through BALANCE – so contact them instead to get some honest advice.
You’re hearing promises that sound unrealistic.
If you’re hearing things like “instant loan forgiveness” or other promises that sound too good to be true, don’t work with that company. A common ruse is advertising a “discontinuing government program” that you must act fast to take advantage of.
3. You’re being asked for your login credentials.
If the company asks you for the username and password to access your current loans, that’s a clear sign they’re up to no good. There is not a legitimate reason for you to give out your credentials to a debt relief company or refinancer.
4. There’s up-front fees.
Federal law prohibits debt relief companies or student loan refinancing companies from collecting advance fees. Requests for your credit card number or checking account information are an indication there’s something wrong.
There are some times when paying money could be legitimate though – such as consulting a lawyer for help with debt cancellation, or getting general credit relief counseling. As a Patelco member, you don’t need to pay for credit counseling – you have complimentary access to it through BALANCE. If you’re interested in getting some guidance on tackling your student debt, contact BALANCE today.
5. The company asks you to sign a power-of-attorney.
A legitimate debt relief company (or bank that’s refinancing your student loans) will never ask for a power-of-attorney from you. Scammers, however, may use this document to change your account contact information – in order to hide the fact that they’re taking your money and not paying off your student loans.
6. The company asks for you to sign a third-party authorization form.
Beware of being asked to sign a third-party authorization form, as scammers can use it in the same way that they can use a power-of-attorney. The best course of action is to contact your existing loan provider (whether it’s a private loan or Federal loan) and confirm what details are needed to pay off your existing loans. Usually, it’s just your name and account number.
7. The company claims to be affiliated with the US Department of Education or some other government organization.
Many unscrupulous debt relief companies will claim this type of affiliation in order to appear legitimate. Do your research on the company before giving over your personal information or working with them.