Don’t Trust These Companies With Your Student Debt

Borrowers, beware of student loan scams. You never have to pay for legitimate student loan help.

Student loan ‘debt relief’ companies charge fees to enroll borrowers in free federal programs. But you can sign up for income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness on your own for free through your federal student loan servicer.

Share your experience and alert fellow borrowers in the NerdWallet Community.

Protect Yourself in 60 Seconds

Avoid scams by watching for these warning signs.

Look at the offer from the company. It if contains any of these five elements, beware. Seek alternatives as outlined in stories higher on this page.

  • You have to pay upfront or monthly fees to get help.
  • The company promises immediate loan forgiveness.
  • A salesperson pressures you to sign up.
  • You’re asked to share sensitive personal information.
  • The company advertises on social media or shows up in search engine ads.

Feds Point Fingers As ‘Debt Relief’ Companies Prey On Student Borrowers

Fraudulent “debt relief” companies are preying on the most vulnerable of the 44 million people with student loans, as federal officials dispute who’s to blame and what to do, a 2017 NerdWallet investigation found.

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These steps can ease debt woes

You don’t have to pay for student loan help. Learn how to avoid scams and manage your student loans on your own for free through the U.S. Department of Education.

How to spot a student loan scam

Learn the red flags to look for.

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How to get federal student loan forgiveness

Four programs could cancel or lower balances.

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Survey: Student loan debt relief companies cash in on confusion

Borrowers who pay for student loan help spend $613 on average.

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A guide to student loan consolidation

Federal consolidation won’t lower your rate, but it may be necessary.

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Find the best repayment plan for you

You can choose from eight plans to pay your federal student loans.

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As federal agencies lag in enforcement of fraudulent student loan relief companies, businesses banned by some states continue operating elsewhere.

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Bob Greenberg, a call center manager for a multimillion-dollar student debt relief operation in Florida, struggles with his conscience as the company’s tactics unfold.

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Three borrowers who deal with debt relief companies say being scammed hurt more than being short of money.

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Certified student loan counselors like Taunya Kennedy are islands of trustworthy advice in a sea of of deception filled with companies that claim to provide assistance — for a steep price.

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Here are six steps to take to end contact with such companies and get the student loan help you need.

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NerdWallet partnered with Fusion TV to learn about one woman’s experience with a student “debt relief” company. Selina Leonard shares her story in this clip of Fusion’s “Debt Trap” documentary.


Hear Leonard share more of her story on NerdWallet’s MoneyFix podcast.

They try to take advantage of desperation.

Janna Champagne, student loan borrower

By the numbers

Frauds Multiply As Student Loan Debt Surpasses Auto and Credit Card Borrowing

Fraudulent debt relief companies capitalize on growing student loan debt in the U.S. The scammers’ targets: struggling borrowers among more than 44 million people shouldering nearly $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans.

One In Six Student Loan Holders Falls Seriously Behind and Becomes Target

Debt relief companies have an expanding pool of desperate borrowers to choose from.  More than 7 million borrowers had fallen seriously behind on payments in 2015. Another 20 million remained current but were failing to reduce their balances.


Reporters: Richard Read, Teddy Nykiel and Alex Richards
Editors: Drex Heikes and Alex Richards
Copy editors: Erica Harrington, Carolyn Kimball, Jim McNett and Kenley Young
Researchers: Djamila Salem Fitzgerald, Jeremy Borden, Amanda Waldroupe, Beth Slovic and Nona Yates