Pennsylvania students who were allegedly duped by a for-profit education company are now being bilked by scammers offering to wipe out their college debt, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The scam seizes on a nationwide settlement with Career Education Corp. (CEC), an Illinois company that was accused of misleading students about costs, transfer credits, and job prospects. The company agreed this month to offer $493.7 million in debt relief to 179,529 former students to settle charges from 49 attorneys general.
In Pennsylvania, that included 12,600 students who will have $38.6 million in loan debts relieved, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. The education company operated three now-closed schools in Pennsylvania — one each in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilkins Township, just outside Pittsburgh. The schools operated under the name Sanford-Brown College, which offered degrees in health, technology, and design.
Scammers are now contacting Sanford-Brown students about the settlement and asking for Social Security numbers and advance payments to help forgive their loan debt, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Despite what the scammers claim, consumers do not need to make any payments to a third party to get debt relief and will not be asked to pay a fee to anyone related to this settlement, the Attorney General’s Office said. Consumers should not give away their Federal Student Aid IDs, Social Security numbers, or other 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.”
Lyrica Carter, a Verona resident and former Sanford-Brown student, was contacted by a company called National Credit Protection and was told there was a limited amount of settlement money left, the Attorney General’s Office said. She was then told that if she just paid the interest on her $35,000 loan, the principal balance would be forgiven.
Carter, who didn’t return messages seeking comment, agreed to sign a credit authorization for the company to withdraw an initial payment of $9.95 and then four monthly payments of $234.76 from her account through April 2019, according to the attorney general.
National Credit Protection did not return messages seeking comment on Friday. It established a LinkedIn page two months ago and currently has no followers on the business-oriented social media site.
Student loan scams have become one of the most prevalent robocall scam categories across the country, according to YouMail, a robocall-blocking application. There were 1.3 billion robocalls connected to student loan scams in 2018, the third-most prevalent robocall scam that year, YouMail found. Inspired by the student loan crisis, the scams typically involve an offer for low interest rates in exchange for a credit card or Social Security number.