The FBI issued a warning on Tuesday to applicants for student loan debt relief over fears that they soon could be targeted by scammers.
In a public service announcement, the FBI stated that “fraudulent websites, e-mails, texts, or phone scams” would likely be used by criminals to obtain everything from a target’s personal information to their financial data.
“Cybercriminals and fraudsters may purport to offer entrance into the Federal Student Loan Forgiveness program, contacting potential victims via phone, email, mail, text, websites, or other online chat services,” the announcement reads. “Cybercriminals and fraudsters use their schemes to receive payment for services they will not provide or collect victim information they can then use to facilitate a variety of other crimes.”
The warning comes less than one month after the Student Loan Debt Relief Plan was introduced by President Joe Biden, which will provide up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt relief for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year and up to $20,000 of debt cancellation for Pell Grant recipient.
The warning also coincides with the official launch of the website at StudentAid.gov/DebtRelief where those with student loan debt can apply for relief. Individuals have until December 31, 2023 to apply. At current, an estimated 45 million people in the U.S. hold student loan debt.
The FBI notes that applicants should be wary of any texts, calls, or websites that ask applicants to pay fees given that the actual process is free.
“Entrance into or assistance with any federal student aid program through the Department of Education or their trusted partners never requires payment,” the announcement adds.
Other government agencies such as the FTC have issued similar warnings as well. The FTC stressed that the initial application will never ask for any banking information or documentation.
“The real application will ask for your name, birth date, Social Security number, phone number, and address,” the FTC writes. “But, when you apply online, you don’t have to upload or attach any documents.”
After applying, however, applicants may receive emails requesting further information. The FTC says only emails from firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org should be viewed as legitimate.