Watch out for student loan debt and tuition help scams

With the new academic year underway, be alert for scams targeting students of all ages.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. warns of ways that scammers may attempt to profit by taking advantage of students and their parents.

  • Identity theft: Identity theft is not only a problem for older students. In fact, millions of children are victims of identity theft every year. Children’s identities can be more valuable to fraudsters because their Social Security numbers have never been used before. This results in clean credit reports that are rarely checked. Beware that if you are asked for your children’s personal identifier information when applying for a back-to-school activities, it may be a scam. Ask yourself if your child’s Social Security number would be necessary information.
  • Phony tuition fees: The scams often ask for additional tuition to “secure your spot” in the class. Some victims of these scams already paid tuition, but get confused by the last-minute requests for additional payments. Be leery of such requests and contact the institution in question to find out whether the request is valid.
  • Financial aid fraud: Fraudsters have made ads for phony financial aid packages. Many pose as financial aid services and ask for an advance fee to help in the loan application process. Make sure any service you use is accredited.
  • Student loan forgiveness: There have been increases in the number of social media ads offering to help students reduce their loan obligations. While some companies are valid, others are scams where exorbitant fees are charged with the promise of renegotiating debt. Remember, debt relief companies are not permitted to negotiate federal student loans.