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student loan scams
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Security & privacy

Warn the students in your family: Data leak + student loan scam

Thieves are always on the lookout for new ways to rip you off. They often send phishing emails trying to trick you into clicking malicious links that install malware onto your device or steal account credentials.

More brazen criminals will even have the courage to call you on the phone. They will spin an elaborate scheme hoping to scam you out of your money. If you fall for a scam, some steps must be taken immediately. Tap or click here for details.

In this report, we’re going to cover a couple of issues that you need to know about. First, an education technology company left its database unprotected for anyone to see its data. Next, scammers are piggybacking on student loan forgiveness to try and rip you off. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

“Careless” approach to cybersecurity

Studying for your dream career is challenging, and most students need all the help they can get. Education technology company Chegg is one such entity, providing homework assistance through an app. 

When you sign up, you must answer several questions, and the data is stored on Chegg’s servers. In theory, the data should be secure, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accuses Chegg of careless behavior.

According to a legal complaint, the company issued root login credentials to multiple employees and some outside contractors. That means anyone with those credentials had an all-access pass to some of the company’s databases. It was an open door for unauthorized people.

The FTC claims that a former Chegg contractor used the details to access information on an Amazon Web Services database. The information includes the names, email addresses and passwords of about 40 million users. 

According to the New York Times, details on students’ religion, sexual orientation, disabilities and parents’ income were also taken. Some of the exposed data was found for sale online. Chegg is working with the FTC on a settlement for impacted users.

Student loan scams

The next thing you must be aware of is an elaborate scheme involving the recent student loan forgiveness program. Several victims have told the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about this scheme.

Here’s how it works. You receive a phone call from someone claiming to represent the student loan forgiveness program.

In many cases, the scammers have a wealth of information they shouldn’t have, including the last four digits of your Social Security number, graduation date and email address. One victim even reported the thieves had information on their FAFSA account. Yikes!

The fraudulent representative claims that they can help you with student loan forgiveness. They even go so far as to claim they can get you up to $60,000. That’s way more than the legitimate program offers, so this should be a red flag. But some are falling for it.

According to the BBB, scammers claim you must pay an initial fee to receive your student loan forgiveness. The fee is typically several hundred dollars spread over a couple of months, followed by smaller monthly payments. Then, your loan will be forgiven when the current pause on the loan forgiveness program ends.

But don’t fall for it. This is a scam! You do NOT have to pay a fee for the official student loan forgiveness plan. If someone calls and asks for a fee, hang up immediately!

There are more ways to outsmart these schemes. The BBB gave a few ideas.

How to avoid student loan forgiveness scams:

  • When in doubt, contact the government agency directly. If you receive a message that seems legitimate but you aren’t sure, stop communicating with the person who contacted you. Then, verify their claims by contacting the government agency they say they represent. For details on the student loan forgiveness program, visit ED.gov or StudentAid.gov.
  • Never pay fees for a free government program. Government agencies will never ask you to pay a fee to benefit from a free government program. Don’t let scammers persuade you otherwise. Con artists may say the fee will get you relief faster or will unlock additional benefits, but that is all part of the scam.
  • Think twice about unsolicited calls, emails, or text messages. Usually, government agencies won’t reach out to you unless you request it. Out-of-the-blue communications are a red flag.
  • Don’t give in to scare tactics. If someone claims you’ll miss out if you don’t act immediately, be wary. This urgency is a common tactic scammers use on victims. Instead of responding, stop communications until you can verify what they say is true.

If you come across a student loan forgiveness scam, report it. Sharing your experience on BBB.org/ScamTracker can help others avoid falling victim.

Keep reading

Student loan scammers are going after people WITHOUT loans, too

FBI warning: Government impersonators add scary tactics to get you to pay up

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