Columbus – It’s an exciting time for recent college graduates, but also stressful as you look for new jobs and begin budgeting for student loans. BBB reminds recent college graduates to not let the stress of your new post-grad life make you vulnerable to a scam.
Employment Scams: Many times, the whirlwind of finishing school takes priority and then summer hits, which means that job-searching could intensify. Scammers are just waiting to take advantage of those looking online for work, either by stealing your money or identity.
You may see a job posting online or receive an email from a “recruiter” asking you to apply for a position. The ad or email most likely uses the name of a real business or government agency. Many of these jobs claim that you can work from home doing simple tasks for a large amount of money.
Once you apply, you receive a response asking for an interview. They may insist you don’t have to meet in person and will ask to do a phone interview or an interview over online messaging like Google Hangouts.
Once you “get” the job, the scammer may tell you that you need to purchase equipment and supplies from them to get started, but will pocket the money you’ve paid without sending you anything. By the time you give up your social security number or other information on what seems like regular paperwork, it could be too late.
BBB offers tips to avoid job scams:
- Be wary of work-from-home or secret shopper positions, and sometimes jobs with more general titles such as caregiver, administrative assistant or customer service rep. Scammers know that some positions that don’t require special training or certification will appeal to a wide audience of applicants.
- If the job posting is for a well-known company, visit the company’s website to see if the position is posted there as well. You can also do a simple online search to see if the same job is popping up in other cities as well. If it is the exact same post in different states, it is most likely a scam.
- Be cautious of on-the-spot job offers or any job offers made without an interview. Different procedures that strike you as strange, such as never meeting face-to-face or being able to confirm where the physical location of the business is could be red flags.
- Don’t fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask for money to be wired elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers.
- Be wary if a company promises you great opportunities or a large income if you pay for coaching, certifications, training or directories.
- Do your homework, even if you feel that you are using a trustworthy site for job postings. Search for information on businesses at bbb.org. Government- run websites for job listings could have a statement warning job-searchers to apply with caution.
Loan Scams: For many students, a college diploma may also come with thousands of dollars in student loans. BBB is warning consumers to be on the lookout for companies that may be targeting students in debt.
Unlawful companies will offer to lessen loan payments or grant debt relief to students struggling to make their student loan payments. The companies may charge several hundred dollars upfront with an additional monthly fee, without ever actually helping the student.
Common types of student loan scams:
Advanced Fee Loan Scam: A student loan company tells you they can give you the “best” rate but charges a fee upfront. The fee may be anywhere from 1-5% of your loan amount. If anyone tells you to pay a fee before receiving a loan, walk away. You should never have to pay a fee to receive loan assistance.
Loan Consolidation Scam: The most common student loan consolidation scam involves scammers collecting money to help you consolidate your loans and then never actually do anything. If you have a federal student loan, there are no fees whatsoever for student loan debt consolidation. You can do it yourself for free at StudentLoans.gov.
Law Firm Lawsuit Student Loan Scam: A law firm claims they can help lower your total student loan debt for thousands less than what you owe. The firm may ask you to make your full student loan payment to them before negotiating with your lender. While negotiating, the law firm may not make any payments with your lender, causing you to default on your student loans. At that point, the law firm could claim that you can’t pay your bills, and try to negotiate a settlement based on that. The borrower now has a poor credit score and has lost thousands of dollars in payments to the law firm without any guarantee that you will be able to settle your loans.
Warning signs that a student loan debt relief company may be trying to rip you off:
- Pressure to pay high up-front fees
- Promises of immediate loan forgiveness or debt cancellation
- Demands that you sign a “third party authorization”
- Requests for your Federal Student Aid PIN
BBB and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offer the following advice for students struggling with loans:
- Enrollment in alternative repayment programs, like Income-Based Repayment (IBR), is available at no cost to federal student loan borrowers.
- Debt relief companies do not have the ability to negotiate with your creditors in order to obtain a “special deal” under these federal student loan programs. Payment levels under IBR and other federal income-driven repayment plans are set by federal law.
- Any claims by debt relief companies to the contrary may be misleading and potentially a violation of law.
- Student loan debt has to be repaid – it cannot be eliminated unless you have a federally qualifying reason (death, permanent disability, school closure, falsification of documents or identity theft). If a company is promising to get your student loan debt eliminated, it is a scam. In some cases, teachers who work in low-income school districts for five years may qualify for some student loan forgiveness. There is also a Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program that some public service employees may qualify for. If you think you may qualify for such a program, you can find more information at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.
Recent grads can visit bbb.org to find information on companies they can trust.
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For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.