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Guest Robert Farrington

What You Need To Know About Student Loan Debt Help​

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Guest Robert Farrington

Before we dive into different types of student loan scams, it’s important that we talk about getting help for your student loan debt.

There are a lot of companies that advertise that they can help you with your loans – you might see the ads on Facebook, on Google, or even in the mail (yes, people still get mail). And these companies might promise you things or advertise some type of help for your student loan debt which might entice you to call or sign up.

Before you take any action with these companies, remember this: you don’t ever have to pay someone to get help with your Federal student loans if you don’t want to. Not that help is not available, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to do it on your own, or hire a professional organization to handle it for you.

Here's why:

Enrollment in repayment programs is available at no cost to Federal student loan borrowers and can be done for free at StudentLoans.gov
Debt relief companies do not have the ability to negotiate with your Federal student loan creditors in order to get you a better deal.
Payment amounts, qualifiers, requirements under IBR, PAYE, and other repayment programs are set by Federal law

 

But that doesn’t automatically mean paying someone for help is a scam. While these programs are free, signing up can be confusing for some people. Or they may have complex situations and want someone to help them. Just like some people do their taxes themselves, while others hire a CPA, the same applies to student loan debt help.

You can do it yourself. Or you could pay someone to help you (if you want to see who we recommend, scroll to the bottom). However, if you pay someone to help you, you need to make sure you’re not going to be ripped off and the company is reputable.

Here are the warning signs to help you avoid student loan debt relief scams.

Advanced Fee Scam
This scam involves a student loan company that tells you they can get you the "best" interest rate and loan terms, but you have to pay a "small" fee up front for this service. The fee can be anywhere from 1-5% of the loan amount. Sometimes the fee is a flat rate up front (say $1000).

If you come across this offer - RUN! There are no circumstances in which you should have to pay money to get money. Legitimate student loans, even from private lenders, do not require any fees up front. If there are any fees, they are deducted from the disbursement check or they are included in the repayment amount and are amortized over the repayment period.

There are two common fees that will be paid with the loan, but once again, never up front. Federal student loans charge a 1% default fee, but charge no origination fees. Most private loans charge some type of either disbursement fee or origination fee, but these are usually negotiable and vary widely from lender to lender.

If you are working with a third-party company to help you with your student loan debt, they might take a fee up front. But this fee should go into an escrow account (or third party account) and the company should only get paid once they prove they’ve helped you sign up for a program. Look for wording like “we only get paid once you’ve made your first payment on your new repayment program”.

Note: A new variation on a theme has emerged in the last year. Instead of charging a direct advanced fee, some companies are offering a second personal loan - which is basically a fee in the format of a loan. Most borrowers who get involved in this don't realize they took out a new loan, and there are repercussions if you cancel or don't pay (such as interest and collection fees). 

The bottom line is, if you use a third party company, make sure you fully understand the pricing and payment structure. 

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