We wrote in August about a satirical piece in the Daily Currant alleging an offer by President Obama to forgive all student loans. The story gained momentum and thousands of people were taken in, sharing and propagating the fake news story throughout the Twitterverse and other social media realms. Today we report on another social media outbreak promising loan forgiveness – this time on Instagram.
How the Scam Worked
More than 15 fake Instagram accounts were established, purporting to belong to student loan giant Sallie Mae, that promised loan forgiveness to thousands of borrowers if they followed them on the social media site. So how does the scam work? Simple. Borrowers were asked to pay a $200 “fee” via bank transfer that would then initiate the loan forgiveness process.
Of interest is that the Instagram scam tied into the recent government shutdown to lend the dodge an air of legitimacy. For student loan borrowers that stopped a moment to think, they should have known this offer was shady and too good to be legit. The most glaring evidence is the mention of the sequester since Sallie Mae, as a private organization, is not part of the shutdown.
How Sallie Mae Responded
Sallie Mae got busy on their legitimate social media channels and responded immediately to the con, warning borrowers against falling for the ruse. FYI – the student loan lender has a Facebook and Twitter presence but no Instagram account. On their Facebook, they posted “Please protect your identity! The official @SallieMae will not ask for your personal information on social media.” They also tweeted several responses to borrowers asking whether the forgiveness program was the real deal.
How to Protect Yourself
In this day and age of heavy social media usage, it behooves us all to be as savvy as possible about who we interact with and what information we share online. In addition to trying to trick the $200 fee out of unwary student loan debtors, scammers were engaged in phishing for personal information, including social security and bank account numbers. Here are some tips to protect yourself from future rip-off routines:
#1 Beware any social media account alleging to be from a business that has the name misspelled
#2 Beware any internet or social media offering that sounds too good to be true
#3 Beware any online request for personal information that could be used for identity theft or fraud
#4 Beware any quick fix programs that promise to solve problems instantly
#5 Beware any program that you find listed on a consumer protection site like ScamBook.com
The good news is that if you want student loan forgiveness, there are legitimate programs to get you there – just not overnight. Enrolling in Income Based Repayment will get you lower payments and balances forgiven after 25 years of payments. Pay As You Earn does the same with forgiveness at 20 years.
And if you can wrangle a public service job, you can get Public Service Loan Forgiveness in as little as 10 years. To find out more about student loan forgiveness programs, check out Tuition.io’s student loan help center. For strategies on tackling your debt even more quickly, rather than waiting on forgiveness, check out our blog. And for all student loan borrowers – whether you have public loans, private loans or a mix – sign up to use our free student loan management and optimization tool to track your loans and more effectively deal with your debt!