My colleague recently received an automated, pre-recorded voicemail from a woman identifying herself as “Sarah from the student loan department.” The woman mentioned a new federal program that would wipe out 20% to 100% of any borrower’s student loan debt.
“This applies to all student loan statuses, including defaulted loans and borrowers who are being garnished,” the friendly voice said in the message. “Call our enrollment center to see how much of your loans can be discharged or forgiven.”
Nevermind that the number provided in the message was already disconnected by the time I called it, or that my colleague doesn’t currently have any education debt.
Student loan robocalls, whether as part of student loan scams or as legitimate messages from your federal loan servicer, are becoming standard fare for borrowers and non-borrowers alike. Robocall-blocking service YouMail told Student Loan Hero it counts about 165 million illegal student loan-related calls per month.
Here are four ways to stop them:
- Add your number to a “Do Not Call” List
- Employ a robocall-blocking mobile app
- Report any robocalls
- Consider legal help
You can register your phone number for free with the National Do Not Call Registry. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — the same agency that recently reimbursed 40,000 borrowers defrauded by relief scams — set up the registry in 2003.
However, as you might have suspected, it’s not unusual for student loan debt relief scammers to violate the Do Not Call Registry. Signing up might only stop legitimate telemarketers (including your real loan servicer) from calling your mobile phone or landline.
You might also have tried blocking a specific number using your smartphone, only to find robocalls reach you from a different line. It’s common for spammers to call you from a number that matches your local area code.
To stop con artists and others from calling you from a variety of phone numbers, you might try robocall-blocking mobile apps such as YouMail, RoboKiller and Nomorobo. If you decide to use such a service, be sure to contact them when a robocall or text sneaks through — that could help them strengthen their security, according to the FTC.
Reporting the call to your app could also reveal the caller’s purpose. In the case of my colleague, she could have inputted the phone number into YouMail, for example, and confirmed that it was a spammer placing the call.
To ensure a spam call doesn’t happen a second time, don’t just notify your app operator, but also report the number to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant or via the Federal Communication Commission’s online form.
Likewise, if you receive a robotext, you can copy the message and send it to your smartphone carrier at 7726 (SPAM). That free service works for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and Bell customers.
While you’re at it, you could consult your carrier about the protections it offers from robocalls and texts. Here are some companies with security products and information specific to their phones:
If your student loan servicer is the auto-dialing culprit, you might find that the calls or texts don’t stop, even after contacting their customer service and making your monthly loan payments.
The National Consumer Law Center cataloged such cases among the thousands of borrowers who have filed suit against their loan provider. At issue are your rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). To adhere to this law, telemarketers — even those working for loan servicers — must:
- Ask for your permission before robocalling you, and
- Include an opt-out or unsubscribe option during each robocall
If your rights are being violated, keep a record of your unwanted calls and voicemails. You might even seek a student loan lawyer. Consider the case of a Pennsylvania man who won a nearly $300,000 judgment after he sued Navient in 2017 for excessive robocalls.
End unwanted student loan-related alerts
If you’re a struggling student loan borrower, you’re unfortunately a prime target for robocallers and texters. They might be bugging you to keep pace with your repayment. Alternatively, they could promise dubious student loan forgiveness — after taking your personal information and collecting a fee, of course.
Whether the student loan robocalls and texts are legal or not, and whether come from your loan servicer or a spoofer, you now know how to stop them.
By utilizing government resources like the FTC, contacting your carrier or downloading a robocall-blocking app, you can finally hang up on telemarketers and scammers for good. In worst-case situations, you might even consider getting (affordable) professional legal help.
If after all that, your phone still won’t stop ringing, buzzing or vibrating, consider reading our guide to dealing with debt collectors.