Student loans grow larger and take longer to repay, making consolidation programs tempting. One of our viewers wanted to know if a consolidation program she was aware of was legitimate. So she contacted our whistleblower hotline and asked us to investigate.
Moorhead resident Darcy Lessard attended school in Wahpeton as well as Moorhead Tech.
She says she will pay off her student loans over the next 20 years: so when she got a letter in the mail saying she could do it at a lower monthly rate and have it all paid off in 10 years at instead, she piqued her interest.
But she started backing down when they asked for her bank account and routing number.
“He said, ‘Well, you can give me a credit card number,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not going to give you a credit card number either,'” said Lessard.
When Lessard asked for more information, she received an email called “Letter from the White House.” He quotes President Obama.
While researching student loans on the official government website of the United States Department of Education, we found out that Lessard was eligible for loan forgiveness because she was working for a non-profit organization.
But Heather Aal of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota says Lessard shouldn’t have to pay for a loan forgiveness.
“It’s something that you can apply for yourself, qualify and take care of it,” Aal said.
Lessard’s letter came from Direct Prep, a document preparation service – which had her full Social Security number and the exact amount of student loans she owes.
“It looked like a form I had filled out for my student loan repayment program I’m currently on,” Lessard said.
So how did they get his personal information?
“We don’t really know where all of this information is coming from,” said Heather Aal of the Better Business Bureau. “It could be a data breach. It could be a public Wi-Fi network, we are not 100% sure.”
“The primary source of this type of violation is often the consumer himself,” said Federal Trade Commission lawyer Michelle Grajales. “I’m sorry to say … sometimes consumers give out personal information.”
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission both state that they cannot categorically claim that this is a scam, but:
“Government affiliation requests are a wake-up call because … the federal government is certainly not reviewing third-party for-profit debt relief companies,” Grajales said.
And although the letter and email appear to sound like federal government documents, the first letter Lessard received clarifies this, if you look closely enough at the bottom where it says, “DP is not affiliated. government or any of its programs. ”
The FTC says the only way to know for sure it’s a scam would be to file a complaint with them. You can do it here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
And here’s a scam-free link, where you can see if you’re eligible for a loan forgiveness through the US Department of Education: