Scammers often use electronic communication methods (email, SMS, website) to explain how a recipient is eligible for government assistance and claim to need information or money from the victim to complete the application process. They can email or text the victim, with a body text containing a link to follow. Once a victim clicks on what is considered a legitimate link to the official federal website, the website will ask for personally identifiable information (PII) such as name, social security number, date of birth, current and previous addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, mother’s maiden name or social media IDs to complete the process. This personal information can be used to conduct additional fraudulent activities at the victim’s expense.
Websites may solicit financial information such as bank and routing account numbers, credit or debit card numbers, digital wallet addresses, or other peer-to-peer money transfer account information. peer to process an application fee or complete the application process.
Phone scammers can call victims claiming to be representatives of a bank or the Ministry of Education and request the victim’s PII and financial information to begin the loan repayment process.
Tips to protect yourself
- Remember: the US government will not charge a processing fee regardless of the type of currency – traditional or cryptocurrency.
- Do not open links or download images or files from suspicious email addresses.
- Always check official US government websites, such as https://studentaid.gov.
- Confirm any loan repayment information with the financial institution or company providing the loan.
- Use caution when entering PII or financial information on websites.
- Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors on the website or in the email. This may indicate a potential scam.
If you are a victim
If you are the victim of an Internet scam, the FBI recommends taking the following steps:
- Report to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov as quickly as possible.
- Report the activity to the online payment service used for the financial transaction.
- Contact your financial institution immediately to stop or cancel transactions. Ask your financial institution to contact the corresponding financial institution where the fraudulent or suspicious transfer was made.
- Keep all transaction information, including prepaid cards and bank statements and all phone, text or email communications.
- Monitor your financial accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activity.
- Report the fraud to the Department of Education at https://studentaid.gov/feedback-center and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.