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Phone scams look to capitalize on massive student loan debt

Americans have $1.4 Trillion in student loan debt
Phone scams target widespread student loan debt
Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 19:33:16-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — Student loan voicemails are popping up on cell phones across Southern Colorado leaving people confused. Consumer experts say there are some reasons we should think twice before returning those calls.

For scammers, rising student loan debt is creating opportunities. Americans are desperate, now more burdened by student loans than credit card or auto debt. Since the start of the year here in Southern Colorado several people have reported being targeted by these schemes.

Eddie Hurt is a real estate professional in Colorado Springs. He recently got this voicemail on his cell phone.

The voicemail left on his phone came across like this...

"Um... this is Joanna and I'm calling in reference to your student loan. We need to discuss your repayment options with the new changes that have recently gone into effect. Please give me a call back with the reference number of 45839."

"It was really believable and that's why I reached out to you," said Hurt.

Hurt says he doesn't even have student loans, but fears someone else might return this call that's been identified as a scam by consumer protection experts.

"Nothing surprises me at all and something like student loans is a lot like mortgages, a big dollar item, so if these scammers are successful 1% of the time they're going to have a pretty good living," said Hurt.

Jonathan Liebert is the CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado. He says nine student loan scams have already been reported locally since the start of the year.

"The primary reason is it if you look at the statistics for 2019 right now in the United States the student loan debt number is $1.4 trillion so again $1.4 trillion is the amount that's out there. That affects a lot of people," said Liebert.

Getting a similar call recently, Liebert says there are some things that stand out about the recent student loan scam voicemails.

"Just enough to pique your curiosity. You know if there's no mention of that actual name of the of the company. The caller doesn't have a last name, but they're friendly and it's a first name basis like hey we've talked before," said Liebert.

If you get one of these calls you are encouraged to call the Better Business Bureau at (719) 636-1155 where they can help you file a report in the nationwide Scam Tracker.

"More information is in that database hopefully the more protected our community will be," said Liebert.

In addition to trying to get you to pay for fraudulent services, federal consumer protection investigators say student loan scam callers are often after (FSA) Federal Student Aid ID numbers and passwords. They say you should never share this information over the phone.

Nerdwallet.com says warning signs of a loan repayment scam are:

- Upfront fees to service your student loan

- Promises of loan forgiveness (it is very hard to have a loan completely forgiven)

- A company that advertises on social media

- A company that has a high number of complaints when Googling its name