In response to the report we released on student loan debt relief last week, some companies have responded by saying that they are comparable to organizations that help taxpayers file their returns–something customers can also do for free.
This is a lousy excuse to rip people off. Here are a few reasons why:
- Most student loan debt relief companies do not disclose that they are helping consumers get into government programs. They claim that they are offering their own unique programs. It is as if a tax preparer promoted its own special and unique tax filing process.
- Everyone knows you have to go through the government to get a tax refund, but most people don’t know that about student loans.
- Student loan debt relief companies claim to offer unique programs tailored to individual needs when in fact they provide assistance (if they provide assistance at all) with government programs.
- The companies cannot get better deals for consumers. Borrowers are entitled to federal student loan relief by law through the Higher Education Act.
- Consumers go to tax preparers for help with tax returns. “Shopping” for student loan relief is not so simple. There are many different options. Ideally, a consumer will receive objective and accurate counseling about the range of options.
- The government hires servicers and collectors who theoretically are supposed to help borrowers get relief they are entitled to by law.
The demand for assistance is fueled in large part by problems with the government’s administration of its own free programs. The government must step up and improve its services, but government inefficiency is not an excuse to rip people off. It can be complicated, but borrowers can get relief on their own. And they can do this for free.