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You never need to pay to sign up for government student loan debt relief programs — but scammers will tell you otherwise. Here’s how to spot scam companies that charge illegal upfront fees for so-called help with your student loans.

Got federal student loans? You don't have to pay for help managing them. Start at

The first thing to know is this: you don’t have to pay for help managing your student loans. If someone tries to charge you up front, before they’ve done anything, that’s your first clue that this is a scam.  And nobody but a scammer will ever offer you quick loan forgiveness.

Take, for example, Apex, a company that — according to an FTC lawsuit — enrolled people in their sham student loan forgiveness program. During the federal student loan pause, when most borrowers weren’t in contact with their loan servicers, Apex signed people up for what they called debt relief programs.

So, how did they convince borrowers to get on board? Apex employees pretended they worked with the Department of Education (they didn’t) and told borrowers they were their new loan servicers (they weren’t). They then signed borrowers up to make automatic payments to a debt relief program that didn’t exist. The problem? Payments went to Apex’s pockets, rarely making it to actual loan servicers. And, to add insult to injury, the COVID-19 federal student loan pause meant that federal borrowers didn’t have to make any loan payments starting March 2020.

Now that the return to repayment is coming up, start at to look at the status of your federal student loans. You’ll find, among other things, information on income-driven repayment plans that adjust your monthly payment based on your income. If your loans are private, go directly to your loan servicer. And if you spot a scam, the FTC wants to know about it:

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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August 22, 2023

BRAVO for the FTC for the info. I will fwd to all my friends, Keep up the excellent work.

The old.chief here.

August 22, 2023

Navient never paused mine but did give me a six month reprieve later on. But now they say they can't give me a IBR payment and that I have to pay the regular amount.

August 23, 2023

In reply to by Wonder

You have every right to apply for the Income Based Repayment Plan IBR. Go to to apply. From my understanding when you apply on Navients website you're directed to to apply anyway. There are several repayment plan option to choose from based on your personal situation. Blessing to you!

August 23, 2023

In reply to by Wonder

Do you have an FFEL loan or a Direct Loan? Some benefits only apply to Direct Loans... You might be able to consolidate into a Direct Loan and then you can access all the benefits of a Federal loan.

Marsha Hall
August 24, 2023

I still have companies call me about my student loan. To either refinance it ot it's time to renew you new payee account. But they also say your new payment will be 208.00 per month. And I also have delt with a refinance company the charged. But I ended up closing my account because of the scam. I also have called my student loan server to verify what my payment was and told them about the call I received to renew my payee account.