It can be devastating to learn that someone has student loans on your behalf without your knowledge or registered you as a co-signer on a loan without your consent. It can be even worse if the crime was committed by a family member or close friend you trust. While it may take years to process the emotional toll, there are steps you can take to start repairing the damage and recovering financially.
When it comes to your finances, you probably know that keeping your passwords and credentials secret can help protect against identity fraud. While it can sometimes be convenient to share these credentials, giving even a family member access to your financial information is not without risk. Sharing this information gives another person the ability to borrow loans or open bank accounts on your behalf, or empty your accounts without your knowledge.
Even when you do your best to keep passwords and other information to yourself, it can be difficult to keep all of that information with the people closest to you – or they may just find ways to access it. For example, your parents and spouse will know or have access to your date of birth and social security number. This is why fraud can happen to anyone at any time, no matter how hard you try.
The Student Loan Ranger has received emails from readers who may have been listed as co-signer on a loan without their knowledge or consent. If you’ve been the victim of such student loan fraud from a family member, here are six steps you can take to begin the financial recovery process:
- Freeze your credit.
- Review your credit report.
- Contact your student loan manager.
- Contact your school and verify your student account.
- File a police report.
- Report the fraud to the federal government.
Freeze your credit
If you suspect that you have been the victim of student loan fraud – or any type of financial fraud – or that your personal information has been compromised in any way, the first thing to do is to contact the main ones. credit reporting agencies and freeze your credit. This will prevent access to your credit report and protect you as you work to repair the damage by ensuring that no one other than you can borrow loans or open new credit accounts in your name.
To request a freeze, contact one of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – and ask to submit a fraud alert. A representative from the appropriate credit bureau can help you report the fraudulent loan and freeze your credit report.
Examine your credit report
Next, take a look at your credit report to look for other fraud cases that you may have missed. Unfortunately, sometimes you may find that the person who committed the crime you discovered may have accessed other forms of credit using your name and personal information.
You can get a free credit report once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also check with your bank, as many financial institutions now offer free credit monitoring. If you find any other fraudulent loans, accounts or lines of credit, initiate a dispute directly with the credit bureaus and each lender or financial institution.
Contact your student loan officer
Then contact the company that handles the fraudulent student loan, alert them to the fraud case, and ask what your options are. You should do this at the start of the process because the loan manager may be able to grant you temporary forbearance while the loan is under review, which means you are not required to make monthly payments during this time.
The student loans officer can also help you determine if you qualify for an identity theft waiver and gather the required evidence. Be prepared to provide the necessary documentation, including samples of your signature and photocopies of your social security card, driver’s license or passport.
Contact your school and review your student account
Whether you are a former student or still there, request a meeting with a financial aid professional at your college to review the paper trail and get a better idea of the type of impersonation that you are dealing with.
You may already know that you haven’t signed a promissory note for the loan in question, but this review can help you better understand and report the crime, including the type of evidence you will need to provide to show that you did not apply for the student loan.
For example, you can find out if loan records show your name and Social Security number or just your name. You can also take a look at the signature on the promissory note and compare it with yours.
File a police report
Once you have a better understanding of what happened and if there are any other fraud cases to report, file an Identity Theft Report with your local police department. This step can be emotionally difficult in cases where the perpetrator is a family member or close friend, but it is important if you want the fraudulent loan to be canceled.
If you are unwilling to take legal action against your loved one, you may consider working with that person on another arrangement. In this case, you may want to hire a mediator who can help you reach a legally binding payment agreement or other type of arrangement.
Such an alternative resolution is not always possible, however, so if you do not want to be responsible for the loan in question, you must file a police report.
Report fraud to the federal government
In addition to alerting the local police, you must also complete the Federal Trade Commission form. IdentityTheft.gov report. This system will help you create a personalized recovery plan and can give you recommendations based on your individual situation.
If the fraudulent loan is a federal student loan, you must also report it to the Department of Education. Office of the Inspector General. This office investigates cases of waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the federal student loans program, and will review your complaint to ensure that the correct processes and procedures were followed by your school when certification of the loan.
If the complaint warrants investigation, it may mean that mistakes were made, and correcting school procedures can help protect other students enrolled or graduating from your college from a similar situation.