If you're sitting on a stack of unpaid student loans, or you have a child who has racked up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, you know how stressful that can be. You're not alone. More than two-thirds of college students graduate with an average $33,000 in student loan debt.
In fact, Americans now owe $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yes, that's trillion with a "T."
So, you know how tempting it is to hope that President Obama or a friendly company comes to your rescue, with promises of greatly reducing your debt. Or, perhaps it can completely wipe out the student loans you owe.
Scammers know that sounds tempting. Which is why you keep seeing ads that promise to do just that on social networking sites like Facebook. They say they'll sharply cut your student loans, or get rid of them entirely.
Don't be tempted. They are most likely scammers fishing for victims. Here are a few tell-tale signs you're about to be scammed.
If a company asks for an upfront fee for its service, move onto the next company. There may be no surer sign that you're about to be scammed than someone holding out their hand before they do anything for you.
If you see an ad or a company tells you that President Obama or Congress has instituted new programs to reduce your student loan debt, it's probably not true. If you hear about any new student loan programs, call your loan servicer, or the school you attended. Ask them.
If there's one loan you're almost definitely going to end up paying back, it's a student loan. They're rarely forgiven. Plus, when they are, it's only for certain loans for certain people, like people in the military or teachers. If a company is saying it can get your student loans reduced, or get rid of your student loans completely, it's probably making a promise it can't deliver on.
If you encounter companies that tell you, "We'll take care of everything," run. Don't let anyone have that much control over your money, or the money you owe the government.
You should also be careful when consolidating loans. Consolidating high-interest loans into a low-interest loan can be beneficial. But, before you do that, just be aware that if you give up government loans in favor of private loans, you're also giving up government protections.
Scammers are counting on you being uninformed. So, do your research.
Always make sure that any company asking you for money is legitimate. One easy way to do that is by searching for that company on the Better Business Bureau site.
Also, it'll pay to be smarter than a scammer. You may want to check the U.S. Department of Education website, just to read through its rules pertaining to student loans, and how to pay them back.