Don’t Fall Victim to Student Loan Consolidation Scams

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Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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Although there are plenty of legal, legitimate businesses that can help you manage your student loans, there are also predatory scammers out there looking to make a quick buck at the expense of borrowers.

As a student loan borrower, you must be able to signs of a student loan scam so you don’t get tricked by empty promises — or even worse, have someone steal your money or identity.

Before passing over any personal information to a company that promises to help you consolidate your student debt, watch out for these four major red flags.

Red flag #1: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Just like an email from a foreign prince who promises to pay you $10 million if you transfer him $5,000 first, student loan scammers make offers that are way too good to be true. And as with nearly everything in finance, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If someone tells you they can magically wipe away your debt or reverse your default, be wary. While there are ways to get your student loans forgiven or rehabilitate a defaulted loan, they probably won’t happen overnight.

If a company is promising to make your debt go away right away, it’s probably a scam. These companies know how desperate some borrowers are to wipe out their student loan balances, and they take advantage of that.

But unfortunately, falling for a scam like this could cost you, and potentially leave you in an even worse position than before.

Red flag #2: You have to pay an upfront fee for services

Consolidating federal student loans is a useful way to simplify debt by combining multiple loans into one. It also allows certain loan types to become eligible for income-driven repayment plans, and can even help get defaulted loans back into good status.

But you don’t have to pay a fee to consolidate your student loans — you can apply for consolidation for free at StudentLoans.gov. So if someone asks you to pay a fee to consolidate, you could be dealing with a scammer.

That said, there are legitimate student loan counselors that charge a fee for their time and services. But you typically shouldn’t have to pay that money upfront — you would pay after they’ve completed their work.

And remember that you don’t have to pay for anyone’s assistance — the consolidation application, and information about the process, is easily available online at no charge.

Red flag #3: Poorly written, unprofessional offers

Along with over-the-top promises and sketchy fees, you might notice that a student loan company’s website or ads are littered with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

Legitimate companies will look professional and use impeccable language. If you’re seeing poor writing and unprofessional advertisements, think twice before handing over any of your personal information.

Private student loan consolidation programs should always be clear about what they offer, what costs and commitments are involved and how your student loan payments are changing. If anything is unclear or sloppy, take your business elsewhere.

Red flag #4: You’re getting threatening phone calls

Although most student loan scammers will try to sweet-talk you with empty promises, others go the opposite route and threaten you with severe consequences if you don’t fork over your personal information.

For instance, you might get a call that says you’ll be arrested if you don’t make an immediate payment on your student loans. But if you hand over your credit card information, you’ll soon realize it was a mistake.

No one is ever going to arrest you for not paying a student loan, and scammers like these are just trying to get their hands on your credit cards, bank account or Social Security number.

That said, it is possible to get sued if you default for a long time on a private student loan. If you stop paying and responding to communications, a private lender could bring you to court to collect the balance.

Before this happens, speak with your lender about ways you can avoid default or get your loan back into good standing.

How to consolidate or refinance your student loans for free

Although there are some legitimate companies that will help you manage your student loans for a fee, you can consolidate or refinance without the help of a third party. Consolidating your federal student loans can be a good strategy for simplifying debt or getting out of default.

If you’re looking to combine multiple loans into one, you could also consider refinancing your student loans. You’ll refinance with a private lender, and both federal and private student loans are eligible.

Basically, the lender will take your old loans and issue you a new one in their place. Depending on your credit and income (or your cosigner’s), you could qualify for a lower interest rate than you have now.

You’ll also get the chance to adjust your monthly payments and choose new repayment terms. This opportunity to restructure your debt could be helpful if you need relief from your monthly bills, or conversely, are looking to pay off your debt faster than scheduled.

You can apply for refinancing offers directly with lenders like SoFi, CommonBond, Earnest, Laurel Road or Citizens Bank. Most of these lenders make it easy to get a rate quote with no impact on your credit score.

Before selecting an offer, though, make sure you understand that refinancing federal student loans means turning them private. As a result, you would lose access to federal loan benefits such as forgiveness programs, repayment plans and loan consolidation.

Whatever you choose, remember that you don’t need the help of a third party to apply for consolidation or refinancing. Although you might rely on them to learn about your student loans, you’re able to apply for consolidation or refinancing on your own for free.

With student loan consolidation scams, follow your gut

While there are laws preventing such cons, and some states have taken action against student loan consolidation scams, the best line of defense is your own good judgment and common sense.

If you do find yourself in a bad situation, reach out to your state attorney general and contact the Federal Student Aid office right away to see if you can get help before it’s too late.

Above all, be informed and vigilant. By understanding how student loans work, you can protect yourself from scammers who are making promises too good to be true.

Eric Rosenberg contributed to this report.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 6 lenders of 2019!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:

    Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 8.074% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.540% APR to 7.115% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.540% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.49% plus 0.04% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. See eligibility details. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score. SoFi rate ranges are current as of March 11, 2019 and are subject to change without notice.

  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.


3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

FIXED APR
Fixed rate options consist of a range from 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term, 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term, 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term, 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. The fixed interest rate will apply until the loan is paid in full (whether before or after default, and whether before or after the scheduled maturity date of the loan). The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.75% per year to 5.80% per year for a 5-year term would be from $183.04 to $192.40. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.14% per year to 6.25% per year for a 7-year term would be from $142.00 to $147.29. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.24% per year to 6.65% per year for a 10-year term would be from $107.24 to $114.31. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.30% per year to 7.05% per year for a 15-year term would be from $80.65 to $90.16. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.61% per year to 7.27% per year for a 20-year term would be from $69.41 to $79.16.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.

VARIABLE APR
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term, 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term, 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term, 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.48% per year to 6.30% per year for a 5-year term would be from $181.83 to $194.73. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.85% per year to 6.35% per year for a 7-year term would be from $140.64 to $147.77. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.90% per year to 6.40% per year for a 10-year term would be from $105.58 to $113.04. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.15% per year to 6.65% per year for a 15-year term would be from $79.86 to $87.94. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.40% per year to 6.90% per year for a 20-year term would be from $68.23 to $76.93.

However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.


4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.


5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.

All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.


6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.48%. Variable interest rates range from 2.98%-9.72% (2.98%-9.72% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 3.89%-9.99% (3.89%-9.99% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.

2.54% – 7.12%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.54% – 7.27%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.67% – 8.96%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

3.23% – 6.65%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.69% – 7.43%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.98% – 9.72%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.