Beware! You Don’t Have to Pay for Help with Your Student Loans

Beware of Scams

I bet many of you have seen ads on Facebook that sound something like this:

“Want Student Loan Forgiveness in Two Weeks? CALL NOW!”

“Apply for Obama Loan Forgiveness in 5 minutes!”

Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.  There are countless ads online from companies offering to help you manage your student loan debt…for a fee, of course. While the U.S. Department of Education (ED) does offer some legitimate student loan forgiveness programs and ways to lower your student loan payments, they are all free to apply for. Don’t pay for help when you can get help for free!

If you’re a federal student loan borrower, ED provides free assistance to help:

  • lower your monthly payment;
  • consolidate your loans;
  • see if you qualify for loan forgiveness; and
  • get out of default.


Lower Your Monthly Payment

Are you out of a job or not earning very much? The federal government makes it easy for you to switch to a more affordable repayment plan at any time at no cost.

Your loan servicer — the company that works on behalf of ED to collect your payments, respond to your customer service inquiries, and manage other tasks related to your federal student loans — can help you decide which repayment plan best suits you and help you switch at no cost! Not sure how to contact your loan servicer? Find out here.

Before you contact your servicer, check out the Repayment Estimator to get an idea of plans available and see estimated monthly payments.


Consolidate Your Loans

If you have multiple loans that you want to combine, you can apply for loan consolidation through StudentLoans.gov. The application is free, and unlike many student loan debt relief companies, there are no extra processing fees.

Some people find it simpler to group all their student loans into a single loan with one interest rate and one monthly payment. Also, if you received your student loan(s) before 2011, you could qualify for better repayment options by consolidating.


See If You Qualify For Loan Forgiveness

Loan forgiveness is the cancellation of all or some portion of your remaining federal student loan balance. This is sometimes called a discharge.

Many student loan debt relief companies advertise that they can help you get your loans forgiven. But, what most people don’t know is that they are simply using ED’s free resources to help you, but are charging you to do so.

You can find out whether you qualify for loan forgiveness due to your job, disability, the closure of your school, or other circumstances.

Your loan servicer also can help you determine if you qualify for loan forgiveness… at no cost!


Get Out of Default

If your loan is already in default, debt relief companies will target you with online ads, phone calls, and maybe even letters to your home address. By being in default, you’ve already incurred added interest, and you’re subject to collection fees. There’s no reason to add additional fees by signing up with a debt relief company.

(Note: Debt relief companies are different from collection agencies. Here are the collection agencies ED contracts with.)

If you’re in default, contact us immediately and we can help you get your loans back on track.

There are 3 FREE ways to get out of default if you go through the federal government.


How to Protect Your Log-In and Account Information

When student loan debt relief companies offer to manage your loan account, to do so, they will ask you to provide them with your federal student aid log-in information (your FSA ID) or to sign a Power of Attorney. Think about it:  your log-in information is the equivalent of your signature on your student loan documents. If you share this information or sign a Power of Attorney, you’re giving a debt relief company the power, literally, to take any action they choose, make decisions for you, and act on your behalf.

And if the debt relief company collects fees from you, but never actually makes any payments on your behalf, you still will be responsible for those outstanding payments and late fees.

You should protect your FSA ID and account information as securely as you guard your ATM PIN.


What to Do If You Think You’ve Been Scammed

If you think you’ve been scammed by a student loan debt relief company:

  1. Contact your bank or credit card company, and request that payments be stopped.
  2. Change your FSA ID password and contact your servicer and the company you contracted with to revoke Power of Attorney.
  3. File a report of suspicious activity through the Federal Student Aid Feedback System.
  4. Submit a complaint with your state’s Office of Consumer Affairs or Consumer Protection, which usually is within or affiliated with the office of the state’s Attorney General.

Remember, there are no student loan companies affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education that charge fees to help you manage your loan repayment. We have many resources available to help you successfully manage your loans for free. Remember, if you have to pay, then stay away!


Alexis Anderson is an intern at Federal Student Aid’s office of communications. She is a graduate student at The George Washington University studying Strategic Public Relations.

Photo by Getty Images.

18 Comments

  1. Hello,
    I just made an agreement with Document Service Center (DSC). I actually did it yesterday then found this article later in the day. I agree with this article. The agreement seemed WAYYY too good. I was excited and I thought at first it was a government program. But I’m afraid I might’ve signed something completely different than I expected. All my loans are government loans and DSC agreed that they can reduce it to about $20 for 240 months (20 years) with my current situation. Anything I can’t pay after the 20 years is forgiven, from what they told me. Is there really a government program that can help me lower my payments and has the option to pay for only 20 years?

    Please help, and thank you!

    • We do not work with DSC. Did the fine print say anything about not being affiliated with the federal government? Did you have to pay them any start-up fees or monthly fees? There are official federal payment plans that extend your payment period up to 20 years and you can have a remaining balance forgiven at the end, but you should know all the details. They are called income-driven repayment plans and you can apply for it by yourself, for free. They four we offer are:

      Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan)
      Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan)
      Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan)
      Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

      Under all four plans, any remaining loan balance is forgiven if your federal student loans aren’t fully repaid at the end of the repayment period. Also, under all of the income-driven repayment plans, your required monthly payment amount may increase or decrease if your income or family size changes from year to year. Each year you must “recertify” your income and family size. This means that you must provide your loan servicer with updated income and family size information so that your servicer can recalculate your payment. You must do this even if there has been no change in your income or family size.

      Here’s another blog post specifically talking about these plans: https://blog.ed.gov/2016/02/which-income-driven-repayment-plan-is-right-for-you/

    • You won’t be able to consolidate your private and federal loans together if you’re going through your official federal loan servicer, which is free. Private loans are handled separately and not through the government.

  2. I am having a hard time getting accurate information in regards to teacher loan forgiveness. I completely paid off all my previous loans, because I had loans before October 1998. I paid these off then took out a new loan for my masters. I submitted my application and was denied saying I had outstanding balance, which I did not. I sent in documentation showing when I paid but was repeatedly denied. Every time I call my loan provider I am told it should go through. However, this last time I was told it was rejected because I took out a loan in 2001 and had the outstanding balance before 1998 when I got that loan. I’m very confused. I paid all of these loans off and the loan I am asking forgiveness for was signed after every other loan was paid off. I want to make sure this information is accurate.

    Thank you!

    • One of the eligibility requirements for teacher loan forgiveness is that you must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998. Who have you been calling? (Who is your federal loan servicer?) Have you reached out to our Ombudsman Group for help?

      • I have not reached out to them, but thank you for the contact information. Just to clarify, I automatically lost any chance of teacher loan forgiveness since I had an outstanding balance before October 1, 1998 when I signed a new agreement in 2001, even though I completely paid off all these loans and had no outstanding balance when I took out my new loan in 2014, which I am seeking forgiveness for? I was previously told it only mattered that all loans which held a balance before October 1, 1998 be paid off before signing the new loan in which I was seeking forgiveness. Thank you for your assistance!

  3. does anyone know if docu help express is a legit third-party organization that helps student loan relief

    • The federal government does not officially work with that company. If they are asking you to pay fees to make minor changes, you should be alert.

  4. I am so disappointed in the Student Loan Forgiveness Program. My daughter has worked so hard to keep paying her loan for 10 years in hope of having it forgiven. Now, after 10 years she is told no because she worked two jobs with no social life and made standard payments. We did not see this coming!!!!

    • Hi Rita, what forgiveness program are you referring to? Did your daughter make a business agreement with a third-party company that is not at all affiliated with the federal government?

  5. Hi, I just received a letter from Student Loan Assistance Department. They said I qualify for a lower interest rate on my current loan which they seemed to have all the information on. Everything was going well until they asked me for my bank account number to charge a fee. Should I be concerned? I told them I would have to wait.

    • Hi Bertha, we do not work with this company. You can’t refinance your federal student loans to get a lower interest rate, so we do not recommend trusting this company. But, you can contact your loan servicer to ask about other options that may help. Here is a list of servicers that we officially work with.

  6. I think I might have been duped but I’m afraid of calling Navient, I doubt they’ll help me. Most people have bad experiences with them and I’ve only gotten help in the past by reaching them through the i-3 group.

    • Hi Julie: This is Marie, the social media manager from Navient. I know that student loan obligations can feel overwhelming, but I want to assure you that we are here to help you be successful in repayment. If you are struggling with making your payments, please don’t ever be afraid to reach out to us! My team would be happy to work with you directly. Please email us at socialmedia@navient.com with your account inquiry and we will look up your account and go over your available repayment options –which may include income-driven repayment. I hope you will take me up on my offer to assist you with your account. Best, Marie | Social Media Manager| Navient

  7. Is there a attorney or some that can go to bat for me on straitening out the run around I get about my school loan. There are so many problems with my case.

  8. Interesting read, having already being forced to pay back part of my student loan, I wished I had this information earlier.

    Good stuff, keep the awesome content coming.

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