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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Student-loan forgiveness attracts debate, including scammers


Editor’s Note / Since the announcement regarding student-loan relief on Aug. 25, 2022, this publication has been receiving signed feedback from residents regarding the Administration’s decision to cancel $10,000 to $20,000 in student debt for millions of borrowers. Our intention is to publish commonsense feedback from the local community in early September to help prevent getting hooked.

To our surprise on the same day that the Naperville Police Department provided media with information about financial crimes and other fraud, the following press release about scamming opportunists was received from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Chicago, a nonprofit organization that helps protect consumers from scams.

Chicago, Aug. 26, 2022 / The Biden Administration recently announced that the federal government will cancel up to $20,000 of Federal student loans per person. Millions of Americans will be recipients of the student loan debt relief. The Better Business Bureau says, unfortunately, this creates an excellent opportunity for scammers, and incidents are already being reported. (See the BBB recent warning about student loan forgiveness scams.)

Naperville resident Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois says, “As student loan holders navigate the new forgiveness program, con artists will undoubtedly be there to take advantage of any confusion. It happens with any big government initiative, including the eviction moratorium and pandemic relief programs. Always be sure to do your research before sharing any personal information.”   

BBB Tips to avoid student-loan forgiveness scams

•    Get to know the terms of your student loan and the relief program before acting. Always do your research before sharing personal information. Be sure to understand the ins and outs of your specific loan, as well as how student loan relief impacts you. For information, visit official government websites such as ED.gov and studentaid.gov.

•    Never pay money for a free government program. Scammers often trick victims into paying for free government programs – or they claim you can get additional benefits, faster benefits, etc., for a fee. A real government agency will not ask for an advanced processing fee. These are all red flags of a scam.

•    Be wary of out-of-the-blue calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the government. In general, the government will not contact you using these methods unless you grant permission.

•    Watch out for phony government agencies or programs. If you speak to someone claiming to be a government representative who is offering you student loan relief, do some research before you agree to anything. Scammers often make up look-alike government websites that sound similar to legitimate agencies or programs.

•    Think something seems suspicious? Reach out to the agency directly. If you have any concerns about an alleged government representative’s legitimacy, hang up the phone or stop emailing/texting. Then, report the suspicious calls or messages. Then, find the official contact information (look on ED.gov and studentaid.gov or other official sites) and call to verify.

•    Be careful, even if the information comes from a friend. Even if a close friend or family member you trust sent you the information regarding student loan relief, make sure the claims are real first. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BBB received many reports of hacked social media accounts being used to spread government impostor scams.

For more information about the Better Business Bureau of Chicago. visit BBB.org.

Naperville Police Department also concerned about scams

On Fri., Aug. 26, the Naperville Police Department held a press conference to address 2022 Mid-Year Crime Statistics and to provide details for local media regarding its conversion to a new system of tracking and reporting crime and incident data to the State of Illinois. The conversion from Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) to National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was mandated for all law enforcement agencies by the Federal Government. The NPD officially converted in June 2021. A more comprehensive report of the conversion during these changing times will be presented in a different story at a later date. For now, be advised that until data is collected for the entire year, the NPD is able only to provide raw data. Year-over-year trends will become available next year.

Financial Crimes in Naperville during 2022

A portion of the mid-year presentation addressed financial crimes including fraud (119 incidents), identity theft (216 incidents) and scams (81 incidents).

Specifically, from January 1 to June 30, 2022, the total amount of financial loss for the scammed incidents was listed as $727,928.

According to the Naperville Police report, the average age of a victim who was scammed here was 50 years old. Perhaps it’s a good time to have a family discussion about scams.

The yellow hand-out with the bold WARNING!! from the Naperville Police Department is posted. Avoid being the target of a sophisticated scammer via email or telemarketing. Simply delete emails from unknown senders and don’t answer the phone from an unknown caller.

Note also the six BBB warnings regarding student loan forgiveness also can apply to just about any unsolicited phone call or email scheme soliciting payment. 

And whether or not last year’s stats match up to the new way to track data, even one scam is too many when considering all the safety precautions and astute advice available to prevent being duped.

Naperville Chief of Police Arres wrapped up the media event by encouraging residents to report local scams and suspicious activity immediately to 9-1-1 and to always to lock up their belongings—”Lock it or lose it.”

Be smart. Thanks for reading. All help to keep this community safe is appreciated.

One more thing…  This website, PN’s fourth since 2001, features dozens of stories about shysters, scammers and common cons. PN’s focus features safety-minded Crime Stoppers and monthly columns from the NPD. When you have time, click here to learn more about safeguards that prevent falling for funding that’s too good to be true.

We appreciate the comments/feedback/debate from the local community (and beyond) about the student-loan relief act. —PN 

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.


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