Fraudsters have been out in force throughout the pandemic, and now they’re apparently preying on Bay Area residents hoping to finally get out from under their looming student loan debt.
The FBI’s San Francisco bureau issued a warning Friday that scammers are targeting people after President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan was announced in August. The scams vary, but they often entail crooks soliciting personal and financial information through websites, emails, texts and calls.
“Scammers will jump at every opportunity to defraud a new pool of potential victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. “The FBI is providing information to the public now to help people recognize the warning signs of potentially fraudulent activity related to the forgiveness of federal student loans. Don’t let a scammer trick you into revealing personally identifiable information or providing any type of payment.”
The federal government does not charge processing fees or require any payments for people to wipe out their federal student loans.
The warning came a day after a relatively stunning decision from a federal judge in Missouri and conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected challenges to the loan forgiveness plan, which is expected to wipe out hundreds of billions of dollars in debt.
Biden’s program—officially called the Student Loan Debt Relief Plan—affects individuals who make less than $125,000 a year, or joint filers with incomes below $250,000. Up to $20,000 of debt cancellation is available to Pell Grant recipients, and up to $10,000 is offered to non-Pell Grant recipients. For more information, visit studentaid.gov.
Below are additional warnings and tips from the FBI in San Francisco:
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Remember: The U.S. government will not charge processing fees, in any type of currency—traditional or cryptocurrencies.
- Do not open links or download images or files from suspicious email addresses.
- Always consult official U.S. government websites, such as https://studentaid.gov.
- Confirm any information regarding loan repayment with the financial institution or company providing the loan.
- Exercise caution when entering any personal identifiable information (PII) or financial information on websites.
- Ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors on the website or in the email. This may indicate a potential scam.
Steps for Victims
- Report to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov as quickly as possible.
- Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
- Contact your financial institution immediately to stop or reverse the transactions. Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was sent.
- Preserve any transaction information, including prepaid cards and banking records and all telephone, text or email communications.
- Monitor your financial accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activity.
- Report the fraud to the Department of Education at https://studentaid.gov/feedback-center and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.
Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected]