City Beat: Student Loan Forgiveness Is Here — Along With Scammers
Last week, President Joe Biden announced the federal government will cancel either $10,000 or $20,000 of federal student loans per person. According to the plan, people who took out Pell Grants to pay for college, which are grants given to low-income borrowers, can qualify for up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness while other student loan borrowers who don’t have Pell Grants will still have loans forgiven up to $10,000, Both forgiveness options are for people who earned less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 as a household, in either the 2020 or 2021 tax year.
There’s been a mixed reaction to the plan, which will cost taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars, depending on the level of involvement. Obviously, many of those who have worked hard and sacrificed much to pay off their student loans, feel short-changed by the Feds paying billions to help students and families pay off their student debt. They feel that, now that they have paid off their student debt, why should they have to pay for the debt of other students? That’s certainly understandable.
The plan also has scammers drooling as they create new scams using the “forgiveness” information to extract a fortune from those who become their victims. The Better Business Bureau has already issued an alert about the “loan forgiveness scammers” and is warning people about the necessity to be informed.
The BBB states: “As student loan holders navigate the new forgiveness program, con artists will undoubtedly be there to take advantage of any confusion. It happens with any big government initiative, including the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, eviction moratorium and pandemic relief programs. Always be sure to do your research before sharing any personal information.”
The BBB offers these tips to avoid student loan forgiveness scams • 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, report the suspicious calls or messages. Then, find the official contact information (look on ED.gov and studentaid.gov or other official sites) and call to verify. • 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.
• SPEEDERS STOPPED — One of our readers, who didn’t want me to use his name, sent me an email stating: “Tuesday, the Decatur Police Department was on Ravina catching speeders. Needless to say they were busy!” Among other observations, our observant reader wrote: “I found it amusing that Ms. Budzinski commented on her opponent being a ‘millionaire heiress’ while ignoring that our governor is a billionaire in the same manner.”
• VICTORY DANCE — I was passed at a high rate of speed by about a dozen vehicles the other morning on Route 51 South as we made our way towards the first stoplight at First Drive. When I finally got to the intersection, all of the speeding vehicles were stopped because the traffic signal was red. Since I was making a right turn, I stopped and then drove on — passing all of the speeders. I wanted to get out of my car and do a victory dance, but I thought that might be a little extreme — but I was doing a victory dance in my mind and mentally pumping my fist in the air for victory!!!!! Driving to the office can be fun!
• WHAT HAPPENED to it? My “Viewpoint” column this week in the online and print editions of the Decatur Tribune is about the disappearance in time of a one-room country school I attended for four years in the area of Hiawatha, Iowa, a small village near Cedar Rapids. The building disappeared into history a few years after I was there and I cannot find a trace of it in any historical records. I don’t know how many years it was there before I attended when I was a kid, or whatever happened to it. The school cannot be found in any historical records of Hiawatha or Linn County, Iowa. I did find out what happened to a few of the kids who attended Center School with me so long ago. I will keep searching. After all of these years, it seems important to me to find out about that school and the students who attended with me in rural Iowa.
• I JOIN BRIAN BYERS on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00.