Email Warning of Student Loan Increases Not As It Appears

An email warns of potential price hikes in student loans, but the company behind it said it was a mistake.

(Published Friday, Dec. 29, 2017)

An email that might be in your in-box about a deadline to enter information regarding student loans may not be coming from your student loan servicing company.

A Dallas man feared the worst and turned to NBC 5 Responds.

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Wayne Smith knows a thing or two about online safety.

"I work in computers. I'm in a software company," he said.

When his wife got an email about her student loan, he thought her payment plan was in trouble.

The email stated, "You must re-certify your family size and income ... This is a federal requirement in order to maintain your low monthly payment," and failure to re-certify can have some very unpleasant consequences.

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"It threatened to double or triple our payments, and if we were on auto-pay it would definitely hit my checking account, and I was like really concerned about it," Smith said.

His wife had recently gone back to school. They took on the debt, and she earned a master's degree in special education to better help their grandson, who has autism.

Smith was working hard to pay it back and didn't want to take any chances.

"I clicked on the link, and I got a '505 error.' It said the link is not there," Smith said. "I started looking at it. It's not from who is servicing her loan, it's not the same phone number. The date on the email was the 4th of December at 11:59 p.m. saying we had to respond by the 4th at 4 p.m. I'm like, 'This just doesn't look right.'"

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He called the company that services his wife's student loan, and they knew nothing about the email.

She was not on this income-based repayment plan and nothing was in jeopardy of changing.

NBC 5 Responds investigated and tracked the email to a company called Certified Enrollment Center. Right on their website it says they're a document preparation service and the services they provide can be done on your own for free.

They even warn that some companies promising student loan relief are scams.

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The email and the website seem very much at odds.

When we called, a manager for Certified Enrollment Center apologized, telling NBC 5 Responds the email came from a third-party marketing vendor and they didn't approve the wording.

The manager said they got complaints, too, and immediately fired the vendor.

Certified Enrollment Center also says all of their services come with a 90-day, money-back guarantee and that they're up front with who they are.

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Smith says he wants everyone to be careful when getting emails, making sure they're really sent from the company you think.

It's always good advice when getting an email like this to look up the phone number of the company you normally deal with, not the one on the email. Call them, like Smith did, and make certain for yourself the letter is the real deal.