Cybersecurity experts see uptick in student loan scams before payments resume

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, September 29, 2023
Experts see uptick in student loan scams before payments resume
When are student loan payments resuming? Criminals know some are vulnerable after the Supreme Court rejected a federal student loan forgiveness plan.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cybersecurity experts and the Federal Trade Commission say student loan scams are hitting hard right now as loan payments are resuming in the next month.

Criminals also know people are vulnerable because that federal student loan forgiveness plan was rejected by the Supreme Court.

"I'm just giving you a call in regards to your student loans. I do have you pre-qualified here for repayment options," one scammer said in a call.

SEE ALSO | As student loan repayment begins, some find monthly payments dramatically increased

It could be a call like that one, claiming to help manage student loans or even help you save money on them. But Zulfikar Ramzan, a cyber-security expert at Aura, says you should avoid anyone who contacts you promising debt relief or forgiveness.

"We're seeing a major uptick in scams related to student loans, specifically around things like debt, relief and student loan relief. And typically, the scammers are now reaching out via all kinds of mechanisms from calling you directly, sending you text messages to send you emails. But, they have one goal in mind, which is to get you to give your sensitive data to them and to steal your money," Ramzan said.

The scams could impact Illinoisans who will begin paying back student loans next month, including students like Amir Nijem, who owes more than $72,000 in federal student loans.

"Very stressful when I looked at it, very eye-opening. What is the consequence of the interest and things that are changing? You know, I don't know what the future economic climate is going to be used inflation going to continue. The cost of living is substantially increased, and you know, my salary and almost things aren't matching that rise," Nijem said.

Ramzan says tech experts are identifying theses scam calls on their customer's phones.

"Every week Americans get hundreds of thousands of robo calls to their phones. We're also seeing situations where the scammers will reach out by email or in some cases even by text message, just to be able to to find you. And, we've discovered this. We have an AI-based call protection system offering that can actually analyze these messages. And using AI, we're able to determine that," Ramzan said.

The Federal Trade Commission says since 2022, there's been more than 8,100 complaints about student loan scams.

READ MORE | Financial aid scams on the rise as student loan forgiveness ends, BBB warns

The FTC issued an alert, telling consumers not to give away their Federal Student Aid login information to anyone who says they need it. The FTC says there is nothing a third party can do to help you manage loans that you can't do yourself, for free, through the U.S. Department of Education.

And remember, no one calling you can offer you forgiveness or money back.

"But, these scams are very good. They know how to trick you psychologically, and it's worth in all these cases, recognizing that there's really never a situation in which any government agency will ask you to provide sensitive information over the phone," Ramzan said. "Typically, that'll be done through some type of formal website that's been set up securely or through some other mechanism, but never over the phone."

If you need assistance managing your federal student loans, if you have questions, or if you want to lower your payments, the Department of Education has specific web links to help.

For private loans, contact your lender directly.

And, never give out any personal information to people calling or texting you. They're trying to steal from you.