• Loans and Credit

How to Avoid Deceptive Student Loan Offers



An education beyond high school is an investment in your future. It can be expensive and often requires you or your family to take out loans to help pay for it.

fall into two categories, federal loans and private loans.

  • Federal loans, which are subject to oversight and
    regulation by the federal government, include:
    • Direct Loans, where the U.S. Department of Education is the lender;
    • Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), where private lenders make loans backed by the federal government; and
    • Federal Perkins Loans.
  • Private loans, sometimes referenced as “alternative loans,” are offered by private lenders and do not include the benefits and protections available with federal loans.

Whether you’re taking out a new student loan or consolidating existing education loans, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, and the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the agency that oversees federal student loans, want you to know how to spot potentially deceptive claims or business practices some private companies may use to get your loan business.

Private Loans

Private companies may offer you loans and other forms of financial assistance for your education. They often use direct mail marketing, telemarketing, television, radio, and online advertising to promote their products.

Paying for your education is a serious long-term financial obligation; that’s why comparing the costs of different ways of financing your education is so important. Private loans tend to have higher fees and rates than federal government loans. Private loans also do not offer the opportunities for cancel-lation or loan forgiveness that are available on many federal loan programs. So it makes good financial sense to exhaust your federal loan options (as well as grants and scholarships) before considering loans from any private companies. To learn more about federal government loans, visit www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov….

How to Spot Deceptive Private Student Loan Practices

If you are considering a private student loan, it’s important to know whom you’re doing business with and the of the loan. The FTC and ED offer these tips to help you recognize questionable claims and practices related to private student loans.

  • Some private lenders and their marketers use names, seals, logos, or other representations similar to those of government agencies to create the false or misleading impression that they are part of or affiliated with the federal government and its student loan programs.
  • ED does not send advertisements or mailers, or otherwise solicit consumers to borrow money. If you receive a student loan solicitation, it is not from ED.
  • Don’t let promotions or incentives like gift cards, credit cards, and sweepstakes prizes divert you from assessing whether the key terms of the loan are reasonable.
  • Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know with whom you are dealing. Private student lenders typically ask for your student account number — often your Social Security number (SSN) or Personal Identifica-tion Number (PIN) — saying they need it to help determine your eligibility. However, because scam artists who purport to be private student lenders can misuse this information, it is critical to provide it or other personal information only if you have confidence in the private student lender with whom you are dealing.
  • Check out the track record of particular private
    student lenders with your state Attorney General (www.naag.org…), your local consumer protection
    agency (www.consumeraction.gov…), and the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org…).

Special Considerations for Consolidation of Federal Loans

Student loan consolidation is combining several loans into one with a new repayment term and inter-est rate. This is generally offered in connection with federal loans. Here’s how to help identify potential problems related to loan consolidation:

  • Avoid lenders and marketers who use high-pressure sales tactics. Some marketers pitch that “your interest rates may go up if you do not con-solidate immediately!” Whether and when inter-est rates for consolidating your loans will change depends on what type of loans you have. Look at your loan documents to determine whether the interest rates are fixed or variable:
    • If all of your education loans have fixed interest rates, there may be no deadline to consolidate.
    • If some or all of your loans have variable interest rates, when you consolidate into a fixed loan it may affect the interest rate of your loan. ED publishes new variable rates for some federal loans each July 1st. The annual rate changes can raise or lower the interest rate offered on a consolidated loan because the consolidation interest rate will be the weighted average of all loans consolidated.

    Whether or not you have a targeted timeframe, take your time to determine whether consolidating is right for you.

  • Some lenders impose restrictions on promised
    discounts. Some may disclose these limits only in the fine print. Read the fine print in your loan documents to find these types of conditions:

    • Some lenders lower the interest rate on your consolidated loan, but only if you opt for automated payments from your checking account.
    • Other lenders discount the interest rate on your consolidated loan, but only if your loan has at least a specified minimum loan balance.
    • Still others agree to lower the interest rate on
      your consolidated loan, but only if you remain current on your payments for the life of the loan. You may want to consider loans with more immediate discounts, a shorter on-time payment period for interest rate discounts, or an additional discount for signing up for automatic payments.
  • Some lenders sell consolidated loans to other companies. Because benefits of consolidated loans — like promised discounts — may not transfer, you may lose benefits if the lender sells your loan. Ask the lender whether the terms of your loan will change if it is sold.
  • Be cautious about consolidating federal loans and private loans into one private loan. The result of consolidating all loans into one non-federal private loan means that you lose all the benefits and protections provided in the federal loan programs.
  • Consolidating a Perkins loan may not be in your best interest. You may lose unique deferment and cancellation rights available to Perkins loan borrowers. For more information about these rights go to www.ed.gov….
  • Frequent consolidation after borrowing may impact timelines you need to meet to qualify for these benefits.

For More Information or to File a Complaint To learn about federal student loans, write the U.S.

Department of Education at:

U.S. Department of Education
Federal Student Aid Information Center
P.O. Box 84
Washington, DC 20044-0084 800-4-FED-AID (TTY: 800-730-8913)
www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov…

Notify the Federal Student Aid Ombudsman at 1-877-557-2575 or www.ombudsman.ed.gov… if you have a complaint that you cannot resolve with your lender.

For questions about a particular lender, contact
the federal agency with jurisdiction over that lender:

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
Regulates banks with “national” in the name or “N.A.” after the name:
Office of the Ombudsman
Customer Assistance Group
1301 McKinney Street, Suite 3450
Houston, TX 77010
800-613-6743 toll-free
www.occ.treas.gov…

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Regulates state-chartered banks that are members of the Federal Reserve System, bank holding companies, and branches of foreign banks:
Federal Reserve Consumer Help
PO Box 1200
Minneapolis, MN 55480 888-851-1920 (TTY: 877-766-8533) toll-free [email protected]

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Regulates state-chartered banks that are not members of the Federal Reserve System:
Division of Supervision & Consumer Protection 550 17th Street, NW Washington, DC 20429 877-ASK-FDIC (275-3342) toll-free
www.fdic.gov…

National Credit Union Administration
Regulates federally chartered credit unions:
Office of Public and Congressional Affairs
1775 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-3428
703-518-6330
www.ncua.gov…

Office of Thrift Supervision
Regulates federal savings and loan associations and federal savings banks:
Consumer Programs 1700 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20552 800-842-6929 toll-free www.ots.treas.gov…

Federal Trade Commission
Regulates non-bank lenders:
Consumer Response Center
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) toll-free
www.ftc.gov…

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business prac-tices in the marketplace and to provide informa-tion to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free infor-mation on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov… or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, tele-marketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S.Department of Education, administers the federal student financial aid — grants, loans, and work-study programs — available for education beyond high school. Federal Student Aid interacts with postsecondary schools, financial institutions and other participants in the student aid programs to deliver services that help students and families plan and pay for .

To learn more about Federal Student Aid and how to pay for college, visit www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov… or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

The Federal Student Aid Ombudsman is available to individuals with specific complaints. To learn more about the Ombudsman, visit www.ombudsman.ed.gov… or call 1-877-557-2575.