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More than 45 million Americans are drowning in almost $1.6 trillion in combined student loan debt, with the average person carrying a balance of nearly $33,000.

With such a large number of people feeling the stress of this financial burden, it’s not surprising that there are scammers taking advantage of this emotional distress.

What Are Student Loan Relief Scams?

These scams disguise themselves as offers from real companies promising to help you with student loan forgiveness or student loan consolidation. But after making you pay fees, they never come through on what they promise.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said student loan debt relief scams have cost borrowers more than $95 million in illegal upfront fees.

How to Avoid Student Loan Debt Relief Scams

To help consumers avoid falling victim to such fraud, the FTC updated its consumer education related to student loan debt relief scams at ftc.gov/StudentLoans.

Here are some tips to avoid scams:

  • Never pay an up-front fee. It’s illegal for companies to charge you in advance before helping you. If you pay upfront to reduce or get rid of your student loan debt, you might not get any help — or your money back.
  • Only scammers promise fast loan forgiveness. Before they know your situation, scammers might say they can quickly get rid of your loans through a loan forgiveness program. But they can’t.
  • A Department of Education seal doesn’t mean it’s legit. Scammers use official-looking names and logos, and say they have special access to certain federal programs. They don’t.
  • Don’t share your FSA ID with anyone. Scammers could use it to get into your account and take control of your personal information.

Consumers can apply for loan deferments, forbearance, repayment and forgiveness or discharge programs directly through the U.S. Department of Education or their loan servicer at no cost. These programs do not require the assistance of a third-party company or payment of application fees.

Don’t fall for the promises of these scammers who offer solutions to escape from an overwhelming student loan. As appealing as the emotional relief may be, these offers that seem too good to be true usually are.

For federal student loan repayment options, visit StudentAid.gov/repay. For private student loans, contact the loan servicer directly.