(WTTV/WXIN) — Starting in October, millions of federal student loan borrowers will have to start making payments again.

Scam artists and sham companies are very aware of this and are already reaching out to borrowers to help with their loans.  

The problem is that many of them are offering such help for a fee, which is a red flag, according to the Federal Trade Commission. In the absence of student loan payments, many young Americans have taken on new credit card debt, car loans and mortgages.

With loan payments returning, scammers see an opportunity to cash in by advertising debt or consolidation services.

However, bad actors have no intention of actually helping you with your loans. They want your money.

In a recent example, the FTC filed a lawsuit against two California-based companies for allegedly “preying on students seeking debt relief.”

According to the complaint, the companies collected $8.8 million in advance fees from student loan borrowers who thought the companies were going to lower or even eliminate their payments.

The companies allegedly told their customers to stop communicating with their federal loan servicers and only deal with them. Then, they set up the initial fee and a lower monthly payment plan.

However, according to the FTC, those companies only collected the money and did nothing to help the students.

The main thing to remember is that anyone who asks for an upfront fee before they do anything to help with your loan is a fraud.

Not only is that illegal, but those services are free through the U.S. Department of Education.

To get that help, you should start with the Education Department’s website. If you don’t already have an account, you can create one and start choosing your best option, such as “lower your payment” or “get temporary relief.”  You can arrange income-driven plans that adjust your monthly payment based on your income.  

These are much more realistic methods, rather than a quick “debt elimination” scheme that’s clearly too good to be true.