FBI warning: Beware of student loan forgiveness scammers

Beware of crooks asking for money or data.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The FBI is warning that cyber criminals and scammers could start targeting former students who are seeking debt relief under US president Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness program. 

Under the Student Loan Debt Relief Plan (2022 SDRP) for individuals with incomes below $125,000, or joint filers with incomes below $250,000, the United States Department of Education will provide "targeted student debt cancellation to borrowers" with loans held by the US Department of Education.

The application process for the student loan forgiveness program opened up this week. The form is available on the official website and is supposed to only take five minutes to complete. 

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The scam the FBI is warning about involves cyber criminals and fraudsters purporting to provide entrance to the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program. 

It warns that fraudsters could contact potential victims via phone, email, text, websites, or online chat services. 

"Cyber criminals 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," the FBI's Internet Crime Center says in a public service announcement.

The Department of Education has made its own warnings about financial aid scams.

Scammers send links to victims via various electronic channels that look legitimate and then request the victim shares details, including 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.

The fraud sites might also solicit a range of financial information, including "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."

Meanwhile, phone scammers can pose as representatives of a bank or the Department of Education to acquire victim details and financial information to begin the application process for loan repayment.

The FBI warns the US government will not charge processing fees in any type of currency, including cryptocurrencies. It also offers standard advice to protect victims from phishing, such as not to click links from suspicious emails. It also warns people to verify websites provided via email or text are official US government websites.

For those who fall victim to this scam, the FBI recommends reporting the incident as quickly as possible, and reporting the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction. Victims should also contact their bank to stop or reverse the transactions. 

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