ANJ Investigates

How to avoid unsolicited calls ramping up as White House looks to forgive some student loans

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Biden Administration’s plans to forgive some student loans is leading to a rise in unsolicited calls offering to help for a small fee. But the Better Business Bureau, and a Jacksonville mother of three, is warning people not to fall for it.

“Family is everything to me. My three kids — they’re my world. I would do anything for them,” Ashley Aguilar said. “I’m like everyone in this whole entire economy — I cannot afford [extra expenses].”

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It’s why Aguilar took advantage of the hold on student loan payments that the federal government put in place during the pandemic. She said an unsolicited caller also took advantage of that.

“I’m already going through struggles. So, if you’re going to take that away from me — I’m going to be in a deeper bind. You’re going to make me homeless,” Aguilar said.

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Aguilar said the person on the other end of the call tried to aggressively get her to immediately pay $170 a month toward her $11,000 loan, even though the government has it paused through the end of the year.

“My heart is pumping, I’m almost about to cry because this lady is telling me I have no other choice but to pay this,” she said.

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The caller was from Student Loan and Savings. Action News Jax’s Robert Grant called the company and a representative said, “we are a third party organization or company that will help get her loans completely forgiven.”

After further digging, it appears Student Loan and Savings is a legitimate business that claims to help people manage their loan. However, the call to Aguilar is exactly what the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida warns against.

“”That is baloney, they can’t do it,” Tom Stephens, the CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, said. “Your loan servicing agent will do exactly the same thing for free, so you don’t have to pay any kind of upfront fee. And that’s what they want. They want to collect a fee for doing nothing.”

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Stephens said calls like these have been around for more than a decade, but will ramp up after the White House announced a program to forgive up to $20,000 which will in turn help roughly 27 million borrowers.

The BBB said you should only deal with your loan servicing provider, don’t pay anyone up front, and remember that the government will never call or text anyone out of the blue. You can also report it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Student Loans and Savings in not accredited with the BBB, it has a one-star rating and 18 complaints in the past year. Action News Jax asked specifically about the call to Aguilar, a representative said they would call us back, but they never did.

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