Let’s say you can’t make your student loan payment and you’re looking for help. You find a debt relief services company through an advertisement that says it will help you, but you’re not sure if it’s legit.
Sometimes the company is waving a red flag that is a clear marker of a scam:
It demands money upfront.
It promises immediate relief.
It pressures you to sign up.
Some of the companies may take your money and disappear, and many others may deliver what they promise in exchange for your money. But that’s a scam too: You never have to pay for legit student loan help.
“Regardless of whether they called themselves ‘innovative’ or a ‘tech company,’ if someone is charging you any amount of money to enroll in a federal right or protection or benefit, that is a scam,” says Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit also included in our roundup below.
Don’t be misled by an official-sounding name like "Student Advisory Board" or a .org website. Student loan debt relief scammers change names frequently and often mimic the names of government agencies or well-established nonprofit advisors.
Your best bet is always to try to consolidate your loans, enroll in a new repayment plan or pursue forgiveness on your own. Your servicer or lender are the best first place to start. If you do need additional help, look for nonprofit groups that never charge a free for advice or assistance.
To help you navigate what’s legit and what’s not in the student loan assistance industry, here’s a roundup of the companies borrowers are searching for. We've identified legitimate companies and organizations with a history of borrower service with no strings attached.
Where to get student loan help
Here are some vetted student loan help resources to consider for information, advice or both; they are established organizations with verified histories:
Student loan help resource
Advice on repayment plans, forgiveness programs and dispute resolution.
Comprehensive information on options for student loan borrowers.
Advocacy on behalf of all borrowers to influence policy.
Complete financial review for struggling borrowers, which can include advice on student loan options and plans for dealing with other debt.
Advice on repayment plans, help with paperwork and budget counseling.
Information for student loan borrowers and an attorney directory.
Help for borrowers who have already filed bankruptcy that did not include their student loans.
Advice on defaults, dispute resolution, collections, debt settlement and legal remedies. Licensed in Massachusetts and New York.
Advice on debt settlement, bankruptcy, default and forgiveness. Licensed in Missouri and Illinois.
Many of these organizations offer advice for free. In some cases, you may need to pay a fee, as with a certified nonprofit credit counseling agency or if you hire an attorney.