INDIANAPOLIS — Within days of President Biden announcing the program to forgive $10,000 to $20,000 in federally backed student loans, the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission and other organizations warned of scammers looking to make money on the program and you.

“As student loan holders navigate the new forgiveness program, con artists will undoubtedly be there to take advantage of any confusion,” the BBB said in a news alert.

While the timeline and details of the loan forgiveness program are still emerging, the general warning is to remember the program is free to sign up for.  Anyone who offers to help you apply for the program and wants to charge you money for that is a fraud, according to the FTC.

“You don’t need to do anything or pay anybody to sign up for the new program,” the FTC said in a consumer alert.  “Nobody can get you in early, help you jump the line, or guarantee eligibility.”

According to the BBB, scammers often swoop in to take advantage of big government initiatives, like the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, eviction moratorium and other pandemic relieve programs.  The organization points out that scammers are very skilled at posing as government look-alike government websites.

Instead of letting a crook trick you into paying for a free government program, the BBB says you can use official government websites to check on the status of your loan and the forgiveness program.  Those websites are the Department of Education and the Federal Student Aid website.

The BBB offered the following tips and information to avoid getting scammed:

  • Get to know the terms of your student loan and the relief program before acting. Always do your research before sharing personal information. Be sure to understand the ins and outs of your specific loan, as well as how student loan relief impacts you. Go straight to official government websites, such as ED.gov and studentaid.gov, for information.
  • Never pay money for a free government program. Scammers often trick victims into paying for free government programs – or they claim you can get additional benefits, faster benefits, etc., for a fee. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. These are all red flags of a scam.
  • Be wary of out-of-the-blue calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods unless you grant permission.
  • Watch out for phony government agencies or programs. If you speak to someone claiming to be a government representative who is offering you student loan relief, do some research before you agree to anything. Scammers often make up look-alike government websites that sound similar to legitimate agencies or programs.
  • Think something seems suspicious? Reach out to the agency directly. If you have any concerns about an alleged government representative’s legitimacy, hang up the phone or stop emailing/texting. Then, find the official contact information (look on ED.gov and studentaid.gov or other official sites) and call to verify. Then, report the suspicious calls or messages. 
  • Be careful, even if the information comes from a friend. Even if a close friend or family member you trust sent you the information regarding student loan relief, make sure the claims are real first. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BBB received many reports of hacked social media accounts being used to spread government impostor scams.

If you spot a scam, you can report to BBB.org/ScamTracker and ReportFraud.ftc.gov.