Attorney General Warns of Pennsylvania Student Loan Debt Relief Scam

Inside Subprime: March 7, 2019

By Lindsay Frankel

Following a lawsuit against a for-profit education company, Pennsylvania former students are now receiving calls from scammers claiming to offer debt forgiveness in exchange for an upfront fee, the Attorney General’s Office warns.

An Illinois-based company reached settlements with 49 attorneys general over accusations that the company deceived students about the cost of their education, job prospects after graduating, and transfer credits. The company will provide $493.7 million in debt relief to nearly 180,000 students who took classes at the company’s various campuses in the last 30 years.

The company operated three schools in Pennsylvania, under the name Sanford-Brown College, which are now closed. The schools offered degrees in design, technology, and health. 12,600 Pennsylvania former students were impacted by the company’s misleading claims and will receive relief for their collective $38.6 million in debt, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

But former Sanford-Brown students can’t rest easy just yet, since scammers are targeting students involved in the settlement, requesting their social security numbers and asking for advance payments in exchange for student loan debt forgiveness.

Lyrica Carter received one such call from one company claiming to be a credit protection agency and was informed that while settlement money was limited, paying the interest to the agency would result in the principal balance being relieved. The scam resulted in Carter losing four monthly payments of $234.76 plus an initial payment of $9.95.

The Attorney General’s Office assures borrowers that they will not be required to make any payments or disclose information to a third party in order to receive student debt relief from the settlement, and warns against sharing any personal information.

“There are scam artists seeking to take advantage of consumers by falsely offering to help them – knowing that people may have read the news about this settlement and are likely to believe their scam is legitimate,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “I’m warning consumers to be careful with their personal information and contact my office if they think they are being taken advantage of.”

Student loan debt relief scams are some of the most common robocall scams, according to YouMail, an application that blocks robocalls. In 2018, there were 1.3 billion robocalls related to student loan scams, making this type of scam the third-most common category. These scams usually involve a promise of lower interest rates in exchange for advance payment or personal information.

Former students impacted by the CEC settlement can get their eligibility questions answered by contacting the company or calling the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555.

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