For student loan borrowers, sometimes unwanted robocalls can be more than just a nuisance. In fact, many are scams that are downright harassing and prey on borrowers who are already in trouble.
If you have a phone, chances are you’ve experienced at least a few robocalls, which are pre-recorded or dialed automatically. Navigating these calls can be tricky, as they are used by both legitimate entities and malicious actors trying to impersonate them.
Automated calls can serve a purpose, and they are useful when used correctly. Businesses, schools, and nonprofits sometimes use automatic dialers or pre-recorded messages to more effectively reach people with important messages.
For example, if your flight was canceled or if your college was opening on a delayed schedule due to inclement weather conditions, you would want to know and maybe appreciate an automated call. If you have student loans, you might appreciate a reminder if you forgot to make a payment and need to refresh your account to avoid the serious consequences of delinquency or default.
At the same time, robocalls have also been used to harass debtors with repetitive phone calls that annoy or abuse. These types of calls are increasingly used by fraudsters as the internet can be used to locate and contact many people inexpensively and efficiently.
Automated calls about alleged debt reduction, including scams aimed at reducing or eliminating student loan debt, are among the fraud complaints that are reported in high numbers to the Federal Trade Commission each year. In fiscal 2020, which includes months when much of the United States was shut down or slowed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the FTC still received 2.8 million robocall complaints.
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Here’s what student loan borrowers need to know to protect themselves from robocalls.
Understand your rights
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which the US Congress passed in 1991, aims to protect consumer privacy and reduce the number of telemarketing and robocalls. The federal government recently updated the TCPA with the goal of further reducing these types of intrusive calls.
In general, the TCPA allows the use of automatically dialed calls and text messages on cell phones if the consumer agrees to receive them. If you’re contacted with a robocall from a company you’ve never heard of, it should be a wake-up call.
To avoid robocalls and telemarketing text messages, you have the right to add your phone numbers for free to the National Do Not Call Registry, which was created by the FTC. To do this, go to www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 from the number (s) you wish to add.
Most federal student loan borrowers consent to calls from their student loan manager – the company that handles billing and other services on behalf of the US Department of Education – when they sign their primary promissory note. You can turn off these calls and texts later, but be aware that this may prevent you from receiving important messages from your server about your account in a timely manner.
The TCPA also allows calls by debt collectors when a loan is in default. Again, consumers have the right to decline these collection calls on their cell phones, but be aware that doing so can cause you to miss important communications regarding your student loan account. For example, appeals are allowed in the event of a default to help debtors determine if other payment methods are an option before they default.
When it comes to debt collection, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, says that debt collectors cannot harass, oppress or abuse debtors or use unfair or deceptive practices. Phone calls before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. in your time zone, whether made using an autodialer or not, are not allowed unless you have given and not withdrawn your consent. You can sue a debt collector for breaking the law.
Know how to complain
If you think a student loan collector is harassing you with calls or texts, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Communications Commission. Consumer Complaints Center, or contact your state attorney general.
The FCC is redoubling its efforts to combat illegal robocalls. Acting commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a series of initiatives in March, including issuing the largest robocall fine in FCC history; launch a Robocall response team; reach out to the FTC, the US Department of Justice and the National Association of State Attorneys General to revive anti-appeals partnerships; and sending cease and desist letters to six voice service providers accused of repeated violations of FCC guidelines, including illegal robocalls to student loan borrowers.
If you think fraud is involved, you can also file a complaint with the FTC, which houses the Office of Consumer Protection.
This month, the FTC announced it was sending nearly $ 150,000 in repayments to student loan borrowers who got caught in a debt relief scam and paid illegal upfront fees based on false promises. eliminate or reduce their student loan debt.
In fact, various types of consumers across the United States received more than $ 483 million in refunds in 2020, thanks to the FTC’s investigations and follow-up actions. But in April this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the FTC did not have the power to seek financial redress in federal court for aggrieved consumers and was prohibited from doing so in the United States. ‘to come up.
The FTC has called on Congress to pass legislation restoring that ability, saying the court’s ruling would restrict its ability to effectively resolve cases on behalf of aggrieved consumers.
As a student loan borrower, you don’t have to tolerate unwanted and harassing robocalls, and neither should you. Knowing your rights and knowing how scammers use these types of calls to take advantage of borrowers can help you protect yourself and others.